Tuesday, November 8, 2016

more than a fairy tale

I grew up going to Sunday School, which means a few things: I drank a lot of red juice from dixie cups, I made a lot of Bible-themed crafts, many involving popsicle sticks (why?), and I memorized certain stories that were taught over and over.

These became like fairy tales to me: full of drama and the stuff of dreams, but diminished and made metaphorical. They were not to be taken literally. These stories were told maybe to expand our imagination (about who God is), but mostly to shape our character and actions in a more tame, straightforward manner. Moses and the burning bush didn’t teach me to look for the fire of God, Zaccheus didn’t teach me to climb trees recklessly, Esther didn't teach me to speak my mind to kings. Trust in God. Love Jesus. These were the polite and domestic (and too abstract) morals of the stories.

This morning I remembered the very not-tame story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. It was always one of my favorites. When I was in third grade, our Junior Choir at church performed a musical production of the story. If I remember right, my oldest sister and two of her friends (the oldest – and coolest – girls in our church’s small group of kids) got the parts of the three main characters. I sang my first and last solo, and had my dream of becoming a singer/songwriter dashed in the first few notes, which I could not find. In my nervousness, I sang the whole verse completely off key. 

I don’t remember how we re-enacted the scene where the three are thrown into a furnace, or who played God, that forth figure that shows up among the flames. In my Sunday School mind, I see four cartoon characters, slightly transparent against dancing flames. For some reason, they slightly resemble the seven dwarves (fairy tales, I tell you). Smiling, cheeks rosy from the heat.

But let’s be real, this is a gruesome story. I think of other events in our history when people were thrown into furnaces, and how these are remembered still with our deepest collective horror. And then, I think about how these men could have easily avoided the furnace by bowing down. And then I also think of a verse in Isaiah, where God tells his people that he'll be with them when they walk through the fire. Not if, but when, and how had I never connected that or thought about that literally before? I think of the fire and remember when I suffered an incredibly difficult season with my health, or when people at work treat me wrongly. Painful, but not capable of burning my flesh. 

I don't know what I'm writing towards, exactly, except that those men are way more interesting to me than the seven dwarves ever will be, their substance more than three men with the silly names, their story more than a fairy tale. 

No comments:

Post a Comment