Pretend friends

Has it been long enough?  To decide if the 2022 is going to be vastly different than the 2020 and the 2021? Covids 18+1 is still here but numbers are dropping again.  We went from delta to omicron, and while I’m not really up on my Greek alphabet, it would seem to me that if Alpha and Omega are the beginning and the end, the first and the last, (see Revelation 22:13) then delta is only four letters away from alpha the beginning, and omicron and omega both start with “o” the last, so therefore the variants are done. Voila! I have always had a penchant for pretending things are the way I want them to be when reality doesn’t seem nearly as fun.

My pretend friends when I was little were Keeney and Connie.  I’m not sure if they were twins, but their names rolled easily off my tongue.  They were a handful, those two, always thinking about creative ways that seemed to end up with me in trouble.  Jumping and popping wheelies on my banana-seat bike – still have scars from those escapades.  Believing if mind really is over matter, moving a log that had rolled away from the fire back to the burn pile shouldn’t be an issue, those finger blisters lasted a bit of a while.  Pinning a towel around my neck as a cape and jumping off the back of the chicken house (only about 6 ft. off the ground) to see if flying was a possibility . . . it wasn’t.  Those two were the reason for so many adventures.  I did learn things, but as is still true, often the hard way.

A couple weeks ago we considered the scriptural story “There was a man who had two sons.”  It’s mostly known as the story of the prodigal son – but in actuality, Jesus starts it with the statement above, and when we consider the deepest meaning of “prodigal” it might be that all three characters in the story were a little that. Yes, the youngest son spends the inheritance he asks from his father “wastefully, freely, and recklessly”; the father can also be seen as being “wastefully extravagant” in his grace-full welcoming home of this son by “giving on a lavish scale” with the party of celebration; and maybe the oldest son could be seen as being “wasteful and reckless” in his bitterness and resentment toward his father because he didn’t receive a party even tho he’d been there all along.  I dunno, maybe it’s a stretch, at least the last one.  But I don’t think it’s a stretch to consider the learning each of the sons is invited to do and seemingly each of them experience in their own “hard” way.

Since the story is a parable (a simple story used to illustrate a spiritual lesson), I wonder if the two sons might have been Jesus’ first pretend friends when he was a child.  Maybe the ones he could blame when his parents were frantically looking for him after their journey to Jerusalem for the Passover and they had to circle back to find him teaching the teachers in the temple?  Maybe the ones who got him into trouble with the pastor when he healed the bent over woman and the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath? Or the ones who convinced him to walk on water in the dark of night that scared the living daylights out of the disciples in the boat? Peter did get to walk on water a little out of that deal, but still, in the middle of the night in the middle of a storm? Who does that? Jesus doesn’t give the sons names in the parable, I think it would have been great if he’d named them Darryl and his other brother Darryl.  (Google “the Newhart” show if you’re under 50).

Am I having too much fun with the scripture?  Am I taking it too lightly?  Maybe.  Or maybe we don’t give God a chance to walk with us in a way that is relatable because we’re so worried about whether we’re saying or thinking the exact right things to get to heaven.  Jesus didn’t come into the world as a miniature adult.  He came as an infant, growing through childhood and adolescence into being an adult.  He didn’t start his gospel witnessed ministry until age 30.  Was he in his prayer closet hermetically sealed til then?  I don’t think so.  Yes, I believe he had the genius to teach the teachers in the synagogue as a pre-teen, and I also believe he laughed and played and was responsible and sometimes irresponsible, made his parents laugh and sometimes made them mad, and maybe even had pretend friends as a child. And in the process matured into the full manifestation of God that God knew we needed to see, hear, and experience, both then and now.

If we are made in the image of God as God says in Genesis 1:27, do we only see God in each other when we are deeply serious, completely reverent, and kneeling at the prayer rail?  Or might we also see God in each other when we’re laughing, and playing, and receiving the blessing of being alive with pretend friends to engage our creativity and spirit when we’re small that we might live with that creativity and spirit in different ways when we’re grown?  I hope both and more are true for us.

Keeney and Connie still visit me now and again when I need them.  Like when I inadvertently dropped then picked up that piece of communion bread off the floor during my sermon on Christmas Eve and popped it in my mouth?  I blame them for that, I’m sure I heard them say, 5 second rule!  Or that Tuesday I locked my keys in my truck in my garage and couldn’t find the spare?  I think they orchestrated that . . . see how convenient they are? 

God knows in our hearts that we worship God in all God’s glory, and I believe God also blesses us with laughter and joy and, when we allow it, maybe even a wee bit of irreverent humor now and again to keep us humble.

The youtube video attached is the first appearance of Larry, his brother Darryl, and his other brother Darryl on the Newhart show in 1982.  If you like dry humor, see Bob Newhart in any of his comedy, sometimes it’s exactly what our funny bones need!

(video link)