Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Floors & A-Panes

Do you remember those commercials from a few years ago showing adults doing goofy things, and then the shot widens to reveal a child with them? (Those of you who know my love for Star Wars won’t be surprised to hear my favorite was the dad on the front lawn jumping around in a bathrobe waving a makeshift lightsaber and making ‘wong-shu’ sounds.)
Picture the scene:
A woman in her 40's sits on the floor of the Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids.  Sits cross-legged on industrial blue carpet hiding the dirt from thousands of feet that have walked there.  Sits in the check-in line, repeating, “Yes, that’s an airplane.  Yes, we’re in an airport.”  Five, Ten, Fifteen times.  Her rather large black purse is next to her, full of grown up things like credit cards, cell phone, pens and calendar. 
People stepped around her, wheeling their suitcases up to the self check-in machines.  From down on the floor they look very tall, their faces very far away.  Every once in a while someone says something to her, but most folks just glance and pass on by, hurrying to get to their gate.
The shot widens to include an adorable two-and-a half year old looking at an airport coloring book…
As you’ve no doubt already guessed, I was the woman on the floor.  With me was my very adorable nephew Liam.  One of the nice Delta workers brought him the coloring book and while my brother checked them in, I sat down to hang out with Liam.  He’s at the age when he likes to ask the same questions over and over.  “Ees dat a-pane?  We in a-po?”
I don’t know who first told me that the best way to relate to a child is to first get down on his level.  Whoever it was, was brilliant!  My first response when I meet a little kid is to kneel down so they can see me better.  How distant the voices of ‘big people’ must be to little ones.  Craning to look up, up, up, the faces start to get distorted by the angle.  (And yes, I realize I am blessed that at 43 I can still easily sit crossed-legged on a floor!)  To keep him from worrying that his dad was not there, I sat with Liam as folks hurried past.  I didn’t even mind answering the same question countless times. 
In a small way, this time with Liam reminded me of how Jesus came close to us.  He did not leave us to crane and strain to glimpse Him.  He did not choose to remain aloof, far out of reach.  Instead, He came down and sat with us.  Sat not on a nicely carpeted floor, but in our muck and mess.  Came and experienced the world from our viewpoint.  Patiently taught His followers, even though their understanding was little better than a child’s.  Showed them how much He loved them by becoming one of them.
I am coming to believe we cannot really show others Jesus until we sit with them in their messes.  After all, Jesus did not just show up, die, and arise, all in three days.  Instead, He spent 33 years living with fallen humans.  To me that says something about how we are to encounter others.  We need to see and experience the world from their perspectives.  And not just in safe and fun places like an airport floor.  No, our call is to step out and sit down in places where alone we cannot get up the courage to go.  Through the Holy Spirit’s power we are to go to the broken places, to shattered people who are dirty and despised and rejected.  
In those places and to those lost little ones we can share the Good News.  The Good News is we serve a God who has lived in our broken world, and been tried and tempted as we have.  He meets us right where we are and then goes with us from that place, moving in us, so we can leave our childish ways and grow in Him.  More than that, the Good News is Jesus did not just come to experience a slice of our lives and then return to His Home.  Instead, He came to live our destiny.   Without Him coming near, our destiny was death.  By becoming sin for us, Jesus took on that death, defeating it once and for all. 
The truth is, each one of us is sitting in a mess apart from Jesus.  Sure, some of our lives seem tidier than others, but we're all stuck in the muck, unable to save ourselves.  Jesus alone has defeated death’s stranglehold on us.  His sin-free sacrifice redeems us.  What news to share!  That’s news worth getting down onto the ‘floor’ of another's life to share.  That’s news worth a little discomfort and dirt on our pants, isn’t it?

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