We took our five kids up to Flagstaff last night to ride “The Polar Express.” They have a life-sized train like the one in the movie and it takes you on an hour-and-a-half ride to the North Pole to visit Santa. They read the story “The Polar Express” along the way and serve hot cocoa and cookies. If you have ever seen the computer-animated movie, you will get a basic idea of what this experience was like. The train looked almost identical to the one in the movie. The only difference was that our Polar Express was taking place in Arizona. Traditionally, that doesn’t make for a very realistic trip to the North Pole.
After dressing all the kids up in matching pajamas, we set out on the two- and-a-half hour drive from Phoenix to Flagstaff. They fought and screamed and cried and hit each other and slept and laughed and cried some more and hit each other and fought and cried all the way up there. I think parents who have over three children should be given special permission to drink and drive. About 30 minutes before we arrived, the fighting and crying suddenly stopped.
Believe it or not, it started snowing! In fact, it was a blizzard just like in the movie. My kids had never seen this and we certainly didn’t expect it to happen on this day. Within a few minutes, the landscape turned into a winter wonderland. When we pulled into the train station, the kids were wide-eyed with excitement. As snow fell from the sky, the magnificent Polar Express slowly pulled up to where we were standing. I glanced over at my five favorites to find the very look that I have learned is the meaning of life itself. The look that had on their faces made the whole trip worth it: “Sparkling Eyes of Wonder.”
Think about the Christian life as we understand it to be. Think about the things we say. We talk openly about how God is in constant repair mode with each and every one of us. We tell each other that for the rest of our lives here on earth, God will be sanding out the blemishes, ironing out the wrinkles and bleaching out the stains in our life. Every single Christian I know is in the midst of some personal project where God is walking them through something and healing them from past wounds. I once heard someone say, “We may not all be where we want to be, but praise God, we’re not where we used to be.” Another person said, “At every point where you finish with something in your life, God will immediately begin repairing a new thing. This process will be continuous until the day you die.”
This is the Christian’s life that we’ve presented to the world for hundreds of years. We tell people how Jesus can change their life, and how God wants to heal them. Our testimonies are either about how Jesus did this to us or how He’s in the process of doing it to us. The moment someone opens their heart to God, the lifelong refurbishing process begins.
I can remember in the early years of my Christianity doing nothing but looking up at the ceiling of my bedroom and saying, “Change me, God, change me.” I must have prayed that prayer ten thousand times. That was before I joined a local Church, which called themselves, “A hospital for sinners.” Once I became a member; I had a buffet of choices where I could go and be ministered to. They had a ministry for every hurt and need imaginable. “Now this is what Christianity SHOULD be,” I thought to myself. “And this is what Church should be – a rehabilitation center for hurting people.”
Most of our Christian thought life is centered around getting better. Most sermons we hear today have to do with how God fixes us and what we need to do to be fixed by Him. Spiritual growth is measured by how much fixing has gone on in our lives and how open to being changed we allow ourselves to be. We encourage each other to have fellowship in our lives so we can be accountable to someone and grow together. We constantly talk about how to live a victorious life and how to conquer addictions and old habits. We try to change everyone around us as well, because we think that fixing the world is the job of Christians. It seems that everything in the Christian walk is about the process of changing, growing and healing.
I would like to be the first person to say that I believe that this entire mentality is RUBBISH!
When I was a Pastor, I saw this “lifelong-rehab” mentality just about everywhere I went. In fact, because I was, “with the organization,” the people associated me with their perceptions of what Christianity was all about. The moment anyone would walk into my office or see me in a grocery store; they would begin vomiting up every wrong thing in their life. I began to long for a normal relationship where we just shot the breeze or had a drink together. No one ever included me in their outings where they laughed and told jokes and dined. I represented Christianity and Christianity represented change. When I was in the room, everyone focused on being a Christian and changing their life. It sucked!
Where in the New Testament was the Christian life presented as a sign-up for endless rehabilitation? Sadly, this is the entire essence of our religion today. We have lost sight of why God created us in the first place. Most of us don’t even know why we’re here. We think it’s so God can renovate our lives, and prepare us for heaven. Because we believe this way; we have redefined the very essence of Christianity and we’ve become blinded to the original heart and purpose of this life. I feel that Christians today have lost sight what it’s all about. We’ve missed it!!!
I believe that our entire religion has missed the point altogether. Jesus never said that He came so that He could put us in a fifty-year recovery program and change our lives. He said that He came that we might have life, and life to the fullest. When we base an entire relationship on a mind-set that it’s about being repaired and changed, we will only go so far in our levels of intimacy with Him. We will react to Him in the same way everyone did to me when they saw me at the grocery store. He won’t be invited along for the fun outings. When we are with Him, we’ll be ready to get down to business and start changing.
The results of this evolution away from truth is that we now spend precious hours every day focusing on things that are not our business to focus upon. We have become obsessive about controlling subjects that we have no control over, such as growth and inner healing, because we’ve put them at the top of our priority list. Most Christians spend their time analyzing where they are at in their growth process and how they can grow faster. We counsel one another and meditate constantly on better ways to change, all the while not realizing that it’s not about that. Imagine how silly we must look as we try our best to grow spiritually. It reminds me of my four-year-old daughter squinting her face and gritting her teeth in an effort to grow a beard like her daddy. Christians today have become overwhelmed with topics that if left alone, would simply take care of themselves.
Have you ever watched a group of Church-going Christians try to have fun? It looks so manipulated and fake. It comes across as sappy and acted-out. It just doesn’t seem real. I think Christians today spend more time convincing themselves that they have fun than they do actually having fun. Christianity isn’t fun by today’s standards. It’s not about fun. It’s about change. It’s about getting fixed. This is precisely why Christians are almost never fun. If we realize that He came so we would have life to the fullest, I believe that we would be a thousand times more likely to leave the “sort-through-the-past journal,” and our bratty “inner-child” behind, get out of the house and climb a mountain, taste a new food or go waterskiing, and enjoy life.
I have found that for the most part it is a bad idea for married couples to either go to a marriage conference or get marriage counseling. The moment a marriage shifts into “fix-it-mode” the relationship becomes drained of all it’s joy and contentment. Couples who are constantly “working on their marriage” almost never have an ounce of fun in their lives. Sparkling eyes of wonder turn into condescending eyes that search for wrong or keep track of who is doing what. The joy of marriage is in letting go and living life together. All relationship requires this mentality for it to succeed.
For Free Believers, this is a common trap that is extra-easy to fall into when it comes to our relationship with the Father. Coming out of the institutional religious world where many of us have lived under constant control and abuse, there is a lot of healing and restoration that we must go through before many of us can even function normally. God is faithful to do just that in all of our lives. If we’re not careful, however, it’s easy to start to believe that the purpose of the Christian walk is for inner recovery and healing. When we give ourselves over to that mentality, we miss life itself. When we see our “journey” with God as a business transaction where we go from one point of recovery to another; we are falling into this terrible mind-set.
Could it be that in the course of truly enjoying life, things like growth and healing happen on their own?
There is a lot to be said for “sparkling eyes of wonder.” It’s a remedy for most of life’s pains and hardships. In fact, I believe that it’s the very essence of life. I’ve found that things like healing and growth are at the mercy of “sparkling eyes of wonder.” When we make Christianity about “getting better” and we put off life until that happens, we are stealing the inner joy that our Father receives when He sees us experiencing life for the first time. As a father, I know how heart-breaking it is to wait for that look in my children’s eyes when I take them on a new adventure, and then not get it. This is exactly what I see modern-day Christianity doing to Him every day of the week. We’ve forgotten about the life part of Christianity and we’ve focused all our attention on being rehabilitated.
The sad thing is that if we really understood the essence of Christianity, we would not go into “Change me” mode, but we’d go into “Sparkling eyes of wonder” mode. Christianity was supposed to be Disneyland, NOT a war zone hospital or a rehab facility for the emotionally jacked-up. Believe it or not, we don’t have to talk through everything in our past. We don’t have to hash through every mistake and meditate on all our pain. Sometimes it’s okay to just pack the kids up and take the “Polar Express” to the North Pole. You’d be surprised at how much the experience causes you to grow and how much healing takes place through the joy of it all. We were created to live life and experience it. We were created to have “Sparkling Eyes of Wonder” at every turn.
God didn’t create Adam and Eve so He could fix them or make them better. He put them here for the same reason I took my children on “The Polar Express” adventure. He wants us to drink in every single drop of life. He loves it when we gasp at a beautiful landscape and scream our heads off when we ride a roller coaster. He lives to see us dive into a pile of leaves in the fall or build a snow fort in winter. It thrills Him when we experience cliff jumping for the first time or learn to snorkel. He loves the look on our face when we watch a rodeo or a circus performer fly through the air. He smiles when we sing along to our favorite song and try our best to reenact the drum solo on our desk. He even likes the sudden look of contentment we get on our faces when we put something sweet in our mouths or the wide-eyed look of surprise that biting into a hot pepper brings. He laughs right along with us at the funny faces our children make when tasting a lemon for the first time or smelling a pile of dog poop.
I truly believe that men like Lewis and Clark figured life out. While the rest of us sit behind closed doors working on bettering ourselves and healing our past hurts, people like them go out and experience the fullness of life. I don’t think that Adam and Eve stood up after being created and said, “Change me, God….change me.” I doubt that they started a serious learning process that would take them the rest of their life to get through. Something tells me that they went on a lifelong exploration of the garden. I’ll bet that they had sparkling eyes of wonder at every turn. They tasted every drop of life, savored every emotion, took in the scent of every flower and enjoyed every moment.
Christianity is NOT about changing and getting better. It’s about experiencing life. If you just get on the train of life and enjoy the ride, God will take care of everything else. This literally changes the entire landscape of Christianity as most people know it today. This one truth is so revolutionary that it could conceivably change the face of our religion. I am telling you that life is not about what you’ve been taught it’s about. Life is the Polar Express and your Father waits to see that look of wonder in your eyes as you experience every facet of the experience.