We recently had to clean the basement at the school I work, which—no joke, is hoarder central down there. There were troves of things we just decided to chuck (making a big pile in the center of the room); and for a group of Montessorians, is crazy and unheard of due to the fact that Montessorians are just a step down…or over, from hoarders.
Well one of the things that I found that was set to be merely thrown away was the original story of Peter Pan. It drove me to thinking about how if and when I have kids some day, I’d love to read that story to them. Visions of beautiful nights, curled up in their beds, reading through a chapter a night and having them beg for just one more page—I know, I’m an idealist, and a romanticist. Thus, I took it from the trash pile and took it home. (I must note to all those out there, not only is it hoarder central, but there were so many books that weren’t age appropriate and were just tossed; I understand, digging through trash from a school is wrong, forgive me, but I couldn’t help feeling like simply throwing that book away was a waste…I’ll face the jury if I need to.)
Anyway, as I’ve been in school this summer (really grueling 8 weeks of 8-4 Monday through Friday) to get my certification for teaching (I’m not certifiable yet…), my mind has continued to go back to that story and the theme of “growing up.” As I continued to sit…and sit…and sit… for hours in class learning about the Montessori philosophy, Maria Montessori herself, the method, and each of the environments, I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something to “growing up” that we just haven’t got quite right. So I began to ponder my own childhood, my own upbringing, and my own nature (I don’t mean to not focus in class…again, I’ll face the jury if I must), and the thought that came up was the concept of mistakes; moreover the idea of correcting mistakes. Something about that thought struck a chord in my heart and mind and I began connecting dots that I didn’t see before—nor during; kinda like doing a connect the dots puzzle where you don’t really know what and where the dots are going to appear.
(That, in itself sounds pretty awesome, and I would totally do connect the dot puzzles if the dots were invisible until you started and then appeared on the paper as you were doing it and you wouldn’t really know what the picture is or if you’re done until it’s all finished, and no more dots appear.)
I don’t know about any of my readers, but I personally am my own worst critic. Nothing anyone says to me comes close to the own judgment I put on myself. Go ahead…try. Moreover, I know that my “nature”, my “natural inclination” when correction mistakes that have been made—be it by an adult or a child, is to drive the point home and make sure that this lesson is learned. I feel the need to make sure that this mistake is never made again. It can’t just be me though. I know I’ve been on the receiving end of someone’s rant at my expense over something I’ve done and should never do again.
So Peter Pan; as I said, my mind took me to so many places over this topic but the centralized focus was the story of Peter Pan. Now I’m not literary agent—my undergrad was in Philosophy, not English, so before I dive right in here please note, these are my thoughts, not a literary interpretation of Peter Pan and any theme therein.
Peter Pan was a boy who refused to grow up. He fought alongside fellow displaced boys with the same mindset, against Pirate Men who wanted to wipe them out—or make them grow up, as the ultimate defeat. I loved reading this story as a child, mostly for the thoughts of being able to fly, and sword fighting, for sleeping in trees, and having adventures in a land without limits. As I’ve gotten older, I find myself playing the role of adult. Further, I find that I do this because it’s what is expected of me. Be a man. Have a trajectory. Set goals. Accomplish them. Take life by the balls and show it whose boss.
I think God has other plans for me. That or I just can’t seem to shake the feeling that I’m still a kid just playing dress up. I find myself doing things without an explainable reason or purpose. I can’t seem to fully integrate into “adult” society or the throngs of conformity.
I don’t shower as often as I should.
I eat sometimes til I’m sick, not til I’m full.
I glance at ladies for a few seconds longer than I should.
I tell dirty jokes.
I burp. I fart.
I laugh at farts and I laugh at South Park.
I want to see movies I probably shouldn’t.
I mess up. I make errors of judgment. I fall seemingly all too quickly. I’m humbled; I make mistake after mistake after mistake.
And mistake after mistake I make, I treat myself as I was either raised to do so, or am inherently inclined to do so: by drilling it into myself that this is bad. And I’m bad. And I shouldn’t be making these mistakes. I should be past making these mistakes. I’m too old to be doing this, Damn it. “
I need to grow up.
And then I work at a school with the most awesome age of kids, 3-6 year olds. And I find myself treating them completely different than I treat myself. I have love. Compassion. Grace. I hold them when they fall; I hold them when they come to me after they make mistakes. I help them with whatever it is they’ve done “wrong.” I desire to see them do what’s right themselves, not do what’s right for them. I desire them to be independent, but always knowing I’m there to help.
I don’t want them to “grow up” and struggle with making mistakes, but know that it’s okay.
And I realize that maybe what is my nature isn’t really what’s right.
Maria Montessori should’ve been a saint. Before I ever came along and struggled with this myself, she crafted an approach so simple, yet so profound: help the child be independent, not a “grown up.” When a child makes a mistake, understand that they’re kids in a foreign world. Mistakes are gonna happen. A teacher should never draw attention to the mistake made, but to dealing with it and moving on. We have only recently discovered in the realm of science, of psychology, and all that stuff that I was interested in but never to pursue, that the brain learns better after correcting a mistake than by doing it right the first time.
Inventors like Thomas Edison pointed this out. With that quote about finding a million ways a light bulb doesn’t work. The lesson just seems to stick more when we’ve screwed it up one or many times—unless of course, you refuse to be okay making these mistakes, when your mind is so blinded by making yourself mistake free, by never making mistakes.
I really feel like what this does is turn us from people to machines. And when we do that, the story of it all becomes a textbook to teach us how to get it right.
But it isn’t a textbook, not really, not unless you make it one.
This is all a story and we are all characters in it. And characters need to rise and fall. It’s why we connect with protagonists and characters in stories we read or see in film; and what makes us love the story. It’s what makes a damn good stories that stay with us.
Yet it’s not our story. It’s God’s. And He’s telling it. Yet He seemingly gives His characters the ability to be part of the story telling or not; to be self aware, to think they can fully know the story, to think they can change the plot. And what is the plot? Well the gospel of John says it’s Jesus. He’s the Word, the Logos, the Reason, the Plot.
So what we make Him out to be decides what we think the story is all about.
(Keep in mind, I really think that even this—our ability to be part of the story telling or not, to think we can change the plot, or the apparent ability to tell the plot as characters of the story itself, is all part of the story teller’s telling of the story. )
Here’s how the story has been read and how it’s usually read today:
God created everything in Genesis One and it was all good. We, humanity screwed it up—it became not all good, and now God is spending the rest of time correcting our mistake. He did this by sending His Son to die for us so that we can get back to the place where it was all good. And the story isn’t finished yet, but we’ve had a prophet right a book about how it’s all gonna end, so we pretty much know the end of the story and feel we understand it all. Cause the story’s been written and given to us which tells the whole story. And now we can spend the rest of our lives as grownups, cause we have book telling us how, and to be ready and grown up for the end of the story.
Hmmmm…..yep. That about sums up everything I’ve been taught.
I’ve had the privilege (or by the Story teller’s intention) to be/become part of a church which is stepping away from this dogma that was in each of our pasts. I can’t escape it. I’ll readily admit I once thought that way, and still have times catching myself thinking that way. But thanks to my Pastor, Peter Hiett, thoughts and feelings I’ve had for a long time are now able to be put to words and expressed. I don’t want to claim anything as wholly my ideas, my profound, ground breaking theological concepts, but express that a door has been opened to theology I hadn’t come into contact with before.
Pistol Peter Hiett’s writings and study himself has led me to see that there is a field of Theology which believes that this is how the story should actually be read:
God is still creating, and we are on the verge of the 7th day. Genesis One is the big picture of it all, and the rest is the story of the 6th day—of humanity being made in God’s image. It isn’t going to be finished, it IS finished(like Jesus said on the cross); we just don’t see it yet.
Firstly, this actually made sense when you study Genesis, as that chapter one is supposed to be a separate text from Genesis two and three, not read combined. But more importantly, this means we didn’t just screw up God’s “intended will” (as I’ve was lead to believe that there’s a difference between His intended will and His apparent will), but its all part of God telling His story. This makes Jesus not a correction for our mistakes, but the center, the point—the plot.
And this makes the sin that started it all something more (or less) than what we’ve made it.
What was the original sin? Taking a fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, so that we ourselves could know right from wrong, good from evil. And we convolute on dilute it into so many different theological concepts that layer upon layer covers up the most simple of truths until we forget it and humanity itself becomes guilty time after time of that original sin.
Cause after all, what is the most basic thing we as humans strive for? What is our most basic goal? To know what is good and do it, and to know what is evil and avoid it. And this has taken so many forms from hedonism to asceticism, that we forget that it’s all the same really.
Even Christians. God to church and learn good from the pastor to do good and not do evil. Learn what God want s and how to do it, learn what God doesn’t want and how to avoid it. Join church groups that help with this. Go to seminars and lectures and worship services and small groups and dinners for 8, and make yourself into what God wants. Grow UP.
It’s still taking the fruit.
Maybe the two trees at the center of the Garden—the Tree of Life, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil weren’t/aren’t two trees at all. Maybe they’re one and the same. And maybe God’s plan was for us to eat of that tree, but not TAKE the fruit, rather receive it. Be given it.
But like in a Montessori classroom, we haven’t been given a lesson on that work yet. So we made a mistake. Not THE mistake, a mistake.
Now I know it can be totally gotten into about whether God intended it or not (again, that whole theology of God’s intended will and actual will), but it’s interesting to work in a classroom full of kids just itching to grow and learn. You know that putting something in their reach is just asking for trouble and simply expecting them not to be curious or touch it is being stupid.
God knew what He was doing, and this is where the story can diverge depending on how you see this act.
If it’s all part of the story, and we’re still in that 6th day, then God had a point in putting the tree out; He knew the nature He created us with and what we would do, and did it anyway. Just like a teacher who puts out a challenging work, and says to the child, “please don’t do this work until I’ve given you a lesson,” and then walks away, and the child decides to try it anyway.
But…if it was all good, and we screwed it up, then the story can get so convoluted, and we spend all our efforts and energy trying to get it to make sense. We try to form an understanding of God by asking—and in the end, seeming to blame God, saying, “Why did He put that tree (that work) out at all if He knew we’d fall?” Or, we say we have such a vile filthy nature, thanks to Adam Eve, and we need to do whatever we can so that we don’t make mistakes like them again. We need to learn all the rules and we need to grow up. No more being kids and making mistakes.
We become pirates.
And we turn God into one as well.
Whether we agree fully, in part, or so we think, not at all, by viewing God and the story in this light, we are all in some way following the 5 (or, by result 6) points of Calvinism. Basically, Calvinism is known by an acronym: T.U.L.I.P. the 5 points:
Total Depravity (also known as Total Inability and Original Sin)
Limited Atonement (also known as Particular Atonement)
Perseverance of the Saints (also known as Once Saved Always Saved)
(If you want an expanded text on these, click HERE)
Derived from these 5 points though, is what many Calvinists come to call the 6th point—which, I say if you follow these, then really this point is a given and you should simply make it known to be part of your dogma and 5 points; anyway it’s this: the concept of “double predestination.” It can simply be stated as the other side to the coin of predestination—that just as God sovereignty chooses those whom He will save, in the same way He chooses those whom He will not save.
Again, you may not believe all of these, but there is a thread running through many the Christian churches that sticks rather closely to these. God creates the world, we mess it up, and now are totally depraved, from birth—or come the age of atonement (whatever that is). God has to send His Son to correct our mistakes (I so badly want to say f*** up), but just as we were free to choose or not choose the fruit in the Garden, we are free to choose or not choose Jesus. As a result, God “intends” for all to be saved, but is stopped short by our free will to choose. Yet at the same time, God is all knowing and so from before time began knows or “predestines” which ones are gonna choose Him and spend eternity in Paradise, and which ones are gonna burn in Hell and damnation.
If you don’t believe all of this, namely the predestination part, then God to you becomes captain of a ship which you can choose to get aboard or not—by choosing to believe in His son, and ask Him to be Lord and Savior of your life (which is really kinda like telling your Mom she can be the one that squeezed you out of her…well, out of her), but if you don’t….you’re gonna burn in Hell and damnation.
And how do we get aboard this ship? Well, we grow up. We see that we need the ship, and the Captain, and it’s up to us to get on board. He’s extended the invitation, but it’s up to us to make the Peter Pan in all of us Grow Up.
I’ve come to realize that for most of my life, I’ve viewed the story of the Prodigal Son in this light. He screws up, realizes he’s hurt, dirty, and living in a reality of a Pig Sty, and logically decides to return to His father. Yes yes. Humble myself, turn from my filth and pig sty, and tell my Father that I am not fit to be His son, but I will be a servant if He’ll take me. Yeah. That way, I can still get outta this filth and back to what I’ve decided is Good.
Never mind that His father runs out to him on the road and hugs him. This was his mindset. And this is the mindset we expect everyone who “chooses” Jesus to have. We tell them, “He’ll be waiting on the road to hug you and welcome you and throw you a party, but you have to be a man, you have to grow up, see what you’re living in, pull yourself up by your boot straps, and decide to make the long journey to Him.”
To find love, Peter Pan, you have to leave the imaginary Neverland of your mind, and grow up. What was that line from the beloved film of my generation, Hook? “Why Peter, you’ve become a pirate.”
In our quest to be what God wants us to be, we’ve forgotten what He’s created us as. In growing up ourselves, we’ve forgotten that we were ever—and still are, children. So much so that the process to “become a child of God” has become something that requires us to grow up (as the Prodigal Son).
We’ve lost sight that to save us, God didn’t wait for us to come to him, but entered our world—as imaginary as we’ve let it become. And he did it gently. I want to avoid gender stereotypes and roles of male and female, and father and mother, because it can get too convoluted. But I need to point out that (who some have dubbed a Christian Mystic, whatever that means) Julian of Norwich thought of Jesus as a Mother, and that the pains on the cross were like the pains of child birth.
I hesitate in this side of the topic because I don’t want to make this about gender, but about adults and children. And how we treat adults and how we treat children. And how we think God treats us, as adults or as children. What I can say is that I love this image because of how beautiful it is to think that rather than acting like we picture the story of the Prodigal Son, Jesus didn’t/doesn’t just wait for us to come to Him, He entered our world. And what is He really like? What does He really expect from us? Is it to come to Him as adults, self aware and disgusted with our being, or as children? What was that thing He said about children and the kingdom of heaven?
What do we do when we’re hurt as kids? What do we do when we realize we’re dirty as kids? What do we do when we feel guilty as kids? We cry to our parents and want nothing but to curl up in their lap and rest our heads on their chest. It has nothing to do with logic, just emotion. Something snaps us out of our imaginary play world, and we want to run to our parents. And what does a good parent do? They’re not off somewhere waiting for us, or to come to us and express our humility, they’re right there the whole time; they’ve been there the whole time. All it takes is snapping out of it to see they’re right there to hold us.
I realize how unnerving this can be. But I think there’s a part in all of us that truly, doesn’t want to be grown up, instead, we want to fly, we want to fight, we want to crow.
But in the notion of needing to make ourselves something, in becoming Pirates to be saved, we make God a Pirate. And because Jesus is the image of an invisible God, we make him a Pirate. We think that He came into this world with the mindset of fighting fire with fire. We need to have this in order to make sense of the story as we see it. We turn the plot into something it’s not so that the story can be as we want it to be.
So we love and crave the plot, Jesus, to be like people like Mark Driscoll envision: A balls to the wall manly man Jesus, who could take both Chuck Norris and Macho Man Randy Savage in a fight and who came into our world kicking ass and taking names and inviting us on a quest to do the same, and who conquered Jerusalem…by…riding in on a donkey.
We make Jesus a pirate because we think that’s what we’re supposed to be. And Jesus has to be this in order for our views of ourselves, the story, and our role in it to not be shaken.
But what if…what if there was another way to look at it?
What if the story is still being told? What if no matter how old we get, we’re still in the 6th day of creation, being made in God’s image, and so we will always be learning, always growing, always kids? What if, just like a (Montessori) Teacher, God knew the nature He created us with? He knew in putting out a work (the tree) we weren’t ready for, that we’d eventually make our way to that work and try it before we were able to? What if then, the rest is His giving us a lesson in the work, teaching us about Good and Evil, about Life, so that come the 7th day, we’re ready for it?
What if this whole existence is God still telling a story that ends with “it’s all good.”
What does that make us?
In the film Batman Begins, there’s a line that the film emphasizes and kinda comes back to here and again. It happens when a young Bruce Wayne falls down the well. His loving father comes and does not criticize his actions but simply says this, “And why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves back up.”
What if God isn’t trying to correct our mistake and to make us grow up, what if He doesn’t want us as pirates, but as Peter Pans, to see ourselves as He sees us—as His children? What if through this whole fallen existence what He is telling us is this:
“And why are we fallen, Adam (humanity)? So we can learn to pick ourselves back up.”