Sunday, February 5, 2012

Mad Flannel Graph Jesus

Have you ever held a baby in your arms, and had an argument with your spouse?  I have.  It surprised me when our baby's little bottom lip started to quiver and he quietly began crying.  My frustration hadn't been aimed at him, but he picked up on the tone of my voice, and it frightened him.

TONE MATTERS!  Tone matters.  Yes, our tone truly does matter. (sigh)

     The way we hear words deeply affects us.  When I listened to bible stories, I often heard Jesus' tone as very angry.  "Oh, you of little faith..." he'd say with arms crossed, shaking his head. That was the way my mind pictured him.  "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching," Jesus replied. (John 14:23)  Again, I felt as though his finger was shaking in my face while I read those words.  I don't know if it was my personality, strict household rules, church teachers who taught with harsh tone or all of the above, but I had a hard time not hearing Jesus sigh loudly, speaking with a "holy tolerance" only he could muster up after thousands of years of stupid people.  My sister and I have spoken about this many times over the years.  Why did we feel like we were always "busted" when we'd read God's Word.  Somehow, shame often showed up after reading it.  I discovered it was the tone with which I was reading it.  When the bible uses the words, "Jesus said," there is rarely any adverbs to tell us HOW he said it, so you hear his voice the way you perceive him.
    My imagination was fantastic!  I built butterfly cages out of wood and Saran wrap, had legions of animals that lived in my pretend world, and an invisible identical twin sister named Julie (she was the "good" sister).  But when it came to letting my mind conceive the truths and stories of the bible, I had already been told what it all looked like... Jesus was a flannel graph!
    He was stuck in the same position for practically every story.  You know the one, where it looks like he is preaching and pageant waving at the same time.  Now, I have to tell you, I chuckle as I write this because my mom loves flannel graph story telling.  Flannel graph is not an evil thing.  Actually, it can be a great tool.  But, I do think my imagination would have done a better job making my Savior seem more alive than "impersonal frozen statue Jesus."  Why is this part of my story?  Because many years of my impressionable childhood was filled with a strict, irritated, impersonal, posed version of Christ.  So when I was very little and would sing the song, "Oh be careful little hands what you do...for the Father up above is looking down in love, oh be careful little hands what you do," it scared me.  He didn't feel loving. I thought Jesus was tapping his sandal foot, holding his arm out and saying, "Behave Girl!"
Tone matters.  And this is frightening!
     Obviously, my story doesn't end there because I met God's Grace.  But many of us, for what ever reason, feel shame even after we are saved.  I know now, God isn't yelling at me through his Word.  Actually, I've met Jesus and his hand isn't stuck at all.  It has grabbed hold of mine, like a loving Father.

1 comment:

  1. I like this one. It is so true. I see it in how I talk to B and how he responds. God isn't tolerating us, he has a passion and love to transform us.