Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Lessons From A Belly Button

A little over 2 years ago, my wife gave birth to our second child, a bouncing baby boy. On the day we were set to take him home from the hospital, I had taken my then 3 year old son down to the car to get something. On our way across the parking lot he made a statement that worried me at first. "Dad, I don't want to take the new baby home with us!" Assuming that he was just having a bit of a struggle with the idea of sharing his mom and dad with his new brother, I instantly began searching the depths of my intellect for the right words to say to help him overcome this hurdle. Having found nothing profound with which to respond, I responded by saying, "Why?" To which my toddler answered, "Because, his belly button is really gross!"

Naturally, I was relieved that is was only a "belly button" issue and he wasn't feeling threatened by his new baby brother. I was pretty sure that I could help him come to terms with this and everything would be ok. Needless to say, we brought our little one home with us and in just a few days our toddler was elated when the gross belly button fell off. As I sit here thinking about that story, it seems so funny to me that nobody has to teach us to be uncomfortable with others who aren't like us. It comes naturally. I remember growing up as a kid and seeing people without arms or legs and I found myself fighting the urge to stare. Let's face it, my toddler wasn't acting all that different than we adults do at times. His issue was with a different looking belly button, but we struggle with different tones of skin sometime, or different genders, or different political philosophies, or different theological beliefs. Let's face it, sexism, racism, and other forms of prejudice don't get near as much energy from little ones as it does from us adults.

Truth is in this year's presidential election, we all know that there will be some who will not vote for Obama simply because of his skin color, while on the other hand there will be those who vote for him simply because of his skin color. At the same time, there will be those who won't vote for John McCain simply because his running mate is a woman, while there will be those who will vote for him just because he has a woman on the ticket. Let's go even deeper. There will be those who won't vote for McCain because he's too old, while there are those who won't vote for Obama because he's too young. It's crazy isn't it? But, we all know its true.

I've lived in the Bible-Belt my whole life and grew up in a "full-gospel, spirit-filled" denomination. Of course, that denomination was a step above all the rest. At least that's the way we felt. Then I left that denomination and found a non-denominational, charismatic church and realized that I was in error all those years and now had found the type of church that stood above the rest. Yep, we even do it in church don't we. We elevate ourselves and those institutions we are a part of and we look down at those who aren't like us. We often struggle with the fact that people don't share our views, opinions, and beliefs. So much so, we have difficulty connecting and interacting with them.

God's desire is that we walk in unity with one another. Jesus prayed and asked the Father to make us one. He also said that the world would know that we are his disciples by the love we have for one another. For years, I was so little in my thinking as to apply this only to my local congregation and denominational affiliation. I had no concept of the global body of Christ. I struggled with the idea of how I could ever walk in unity with the Methodists, and Baptists, and Catholics, and Pentecostals, and all the other denominations and independents.

I found the key though and here it is. You can not focus on the things that make you different. When we brought our newborn infant home, he was constantly clothed and wrapped up. Because of that our toddler could not see the gross belly button, which made it easy for him to accept his little brother. He held him, he kissed him, and absolutely adored him. It was only those moments during diaper changes or bath times that the thing he struggled with was even visible. As he connected with his little brother the gross belly button became lesser and lesser of an issue. Here's my point, when we choose not to focus on those things that separate us, we are quick to find the things that bring us together.

We truly have to get to the point where we no longer care if the church down the street sings out of hymnals or breaks into a 30 minute spontaneous worship tune. We have to come to the place where we no longer care if some raise their hands in worship or have no worship at all. We can no longer allow things like "once saved always saved", "falling from grace", "tongues", eschatology, or style of worship drive a wedge between us. When we choose to connect despite our differences we'll find that in the grand scheme of things our differences don't really amount to much.

I've discovered on my journey that my theology is not what identifies me. Scripture tells us that we are complete in Christ. My identity is found in Him alone. Not in theology, doctrine, church affiliation, or worship style. I know what I believe, I know in whom I believe, and those who hold a different belief or interpretation in no way threaten that. When Christ is at the center then He trumps everything and anything that we don't see eye to eye on. I think that when we understand that, it makes it alot easier to love others the way God intended for us to love them. Let's face it, if we can't love our brothers and sisters in the faith, how are we to love those on the outside? Think about it, if we can't love someone who differs with us on the ministry of the Holy Spirit, how can we ever love those who not only disagree with our theology and worship style but our belief in the God who's the very foundation on which we live?

I'm happy to say that our two boys are connected in a way that only brothers can connect. Sure, the gross belly button is a thing of the past but the two are as different as night and day. From the outside looking in, I can see all the things that make them different, but to them it just doesn't seem to matter. It's as if they can't see them. Or, maybe it's just that they choose not to focus on them.

No comments:

Post a Comment