Remember when you were a little kid, and everything felt bigger, fuller? Christmas was an event that lasted months and it overflowed with anticipation. When you're young, the world seems to just sit right there in front of you, dripping with some kind of glory.
I remember always thinking, "Why is it always 'me?'" I couldn't understand why everything seemed to revolve around me and my own thoughts. I thought it odd that I couldn't experience the thoughts or worlds of other people. It was a mind-bending thought, really. I still secretly wonder about that.
Last night I stood waiting for the bus at the Park End stop; t's a stone's throw down the street from the Oxford rail station. So, it's a busy area. As I stood there two teenage girls sat in front me on the stop bench talking about their day.
"I just updated my profile picture, but it won't show on my phone." (add a nice British accent in your head as you read.)
"You have to wait until your on the Wi-fi and then it will update."
"Oh, right. How about this lovely scarf? Right?"
"Oh wow, I really missed out."
I stood and eavesdropped, and smiled. I thought about my three young daughters and wondered what their conversations will be like in seven years.
Remember When You Knew It All?
Then, I thought about the life perspective of the two girls at the stop . What do they see when they see me? There I stood, a forty(something) year-old man, long hair, backpack, Doc Martens, wool flannel, wool hat. There I stood, a dinosaur to them. I remember how I thought my youth leaders in school were so old. They were in their thirties.
When you're young, you think you know so much. And you really do. But you do only in relation to your own context. When you're young and you come into contact with an adult it's as if they have entered your secret youth realm; they have invaded your beautiful youth planet.
"What could you possibly know that I don't. I'm self-sufficient and beautiful and hip and, really, I have it all." Maybe that's a bit much, but you get the picture, don't you? You, me, as the youth looking at adults, we viewed them as aliens from the other side of the galaxy.
And there I stood, a creature from another galaxy: Adultdromeda.
I Come In Peace
But then I thought of all the things I could tell these young ladies about identity, and about high school boys, and about the importance of reading a good book. I thought, "I actually have good things to tell these creatures from the World of Youth."
I also thought, "Because of my travels across these galaxies, from the World of Youth to Adultdromeda, I have much to tell, but I have also gathered in grace. I don't expect these young Oxford ladies to necessarily care about anything I say, and I expect them to be young, to be impetuous, romantic, drama-filled, angst-driven, nonchalant, passionate. I expect that. They are from the World of Youth.
They could probably swim circles around me in the pop-culture waters. And the thing is, I didn't really care. I was confident in my adult galaxy, which is strange because I remember wondering if I would ever lose the passion of my youth. I was sure that I would never change my mind on important topics like literature, music, and theology. And yet, here I am still evolving, as they say, on so many things. I stood and laughed at my adult self from Adultdromeda.
Sure I'm an alien to them, sure. But I come in peace. I come bearing great tidings of immeasurable joy. That you will one day make it to Adultdromeda and your identity will remain in tact. And if you're careful, all those wonderful emotions and characteristics you love about youth will do something amazing ... they will mature into new forms and build into you the wonder of youth, but with the memory of the journey to Adultdromeda.
And Then I Thought About Godromeda
"I wonder if it's the same with God."
He journeyed from the other side of the universe to this "pale blue dot" and then squeezed himself into the human transmogrifying funnel and squirted out the other side into hay and filth among strange animals and even stranger humans.
What did he think as he grew into his God-self within his mind, yet in the form of a young boy. It must have felt as though he was standing still. When you're eternal you must exist in perpetual motion of being, and then, kerplunk, you're standing on one of the smallest stones in the universe, that you, incidentally, created.
Can you imagine the state of "Adult" he must have felt. You and I, we're from the same realm as the World of Youth. Adultdromeda is not so far away and it's not tucked in eternity. It's just a few years down the road, hang a right and then look for the big sign that says, "Time To Grow Up, Exit Here."
But God, he exists outside it all, out there in the sea of infinity. He's the Moby Dick of the universe. We know he's out there and then all of a sudden we feel him and all his fullness behind the sunset and the rainbow and the ocean crashes and the songs of birds, and the kiss of our beloved. And then we feel a little afraid, as if we could be consumed at any moment.
That's the same God (Immanuel=God with us) who walked with Peter and stood there watching him pull nets and hem-haw around asking questions that were so young at heart. "Trust me, Peter. Toss your nets on the other side of the boat."
"But, Jesus, I'm a fisherman, I know what I'm doing, this is my realm."
Watch Out For The Glory Net
I wonder if God, as he stood there in front of Peter, just smiled in his heart, confident in where he came from and who he was, and motioned him over to himself, and whispered into his hear.
"I love you, man. You're one of a kind."
I wonder if in his mind he thought, "Watch out, here comes my net of Glory; it's weighty and glistens because they angels made it way far away in infinity, and it's about to tangle you in its delight."
I mean, that's what I tell my daughters. I hold them, and whisper to them, "Bri, you're so special. Zion, I love you. Lyric, you are wonderfully made."
Sure they do silly kid things. And some day they will sit at the bus stop and talk about boys (oh, dear God!) and about scarfs, and about Moby Dick and about, oh please not, their profile pictures. And hopefully I can stand behind them, shielded by my special adult powers from Adultdromeda, and nod and throw patience and grace their way because that's what God does with me.
That's what he does with us all, I think. And I think that's part of what it means to understand and give grace. God's grace is infinite because he comes from infinity; he's so far away from us in distance, in likeness, in character, and yet so close and similar. What a holy paradox! His Godness, gathered from his Godromeda, gives him immeasurable knowingness and that is what allows him to be: love, joy, peace, patience, grace. All the things we need to grow up into him, into faith, into children?
Yes, children. We are his children. And he comes to us like a Father who's all grown up and says, "It's okay, Timmy, just be yourself. My love has come from far and has plenty of fabric to blanket you. Take your time and grow up, so you can be ... my child."
You've still got plenty of time for some Christmas shopping. I always save mine for the last few days. If you have book lovers on your list, click over and give my new devotional a try. Here's a recent Amazon review:
Willard tells his readers not to substitute this devotional for the Bible. To me this is a big win. It is scary how many devotionals out there that do not encourage daily reading of the word of God.
If you are looking to dig deeper into yourself or looking for a new devotional for the upcoming year, I would give this one a look!
-The Literary Housewife
Timothy Willard is the author of five books, including Longing For More: Daily Reflections on Finding God in the Rhythms of Life and the forthcoming The Life-Giving Adventure of Chasing Beauty (Eerdmans, 2019). He has collaborated on over 20 books and has written, consulted and served as spiritual director for organizations such as Chick-fil-A, Catalyst, Q Ideas and Praxis Labs. When he’s not riding the trails in the Appalachian mountains you can find him by the fire with his three daughters and his wife making up stories about Tom the back yard badger. He lives somewhere in the south Charlotte woods.