The first grade teachers at my school take the kids to the circus every year. Last year when I looped up to first grade with my class, I was excited to take my students. A teacher friend said to me, “It’s really fun, but getting from the bus to your seats with all of the kids in tow can be overwhelming.”
Yeah. Understatement of the year.
I prepared my kids ahead of time to put their hands on the person’s shoulders in front of them so that we wouldn’t get separated. And that’s all I did.
So when we got off the bus and started towards the entrance, I first noticed the crowd. It looked as if everyone in Alabama had come to the circus. I had not been since I was a kid, and the crowd was way bigger than I remembered, even on a Friday morning. There were workers for the civic center standing not five feet apart yelling into megaphones. Their directions were so loud that they were hard to decipher, they were sort of “barked” rather than told, and they were at some points conflicting.
“Groups over here! Each person must have a ticket in their hands!”
“If you’re a group come here! Give me a count for your tickets!”
“You must have your ticket out!”
And on and on and on it went.
Crying babies, yelling children, barking adults. And clowns. Which led to crying babies, yelling children, and more barking adults.
I noticed immediately that my kids were forgetting to do the one thing I had told them to do. They let go of the person in front of them. And they stood wide-eyed and open-mouthed, just looking around in confusion.
So I did what any good adult would do in this situation: I joined in the yelling and barking of orders.
“Guys! Grab ahold of the person in front of you! Follow the person in front of you! You will get lost if you don’t!”
After about twenty feet of me walking backwards and bumping into the crowd which was just so full, I lost about half of my kids.
One adult. Seventeen first graders. And I’ve lost half of them. Pure terror.
The good news is, it only lasted a few seconds, which felt like an eternity to me. I quickly found the line of wide-eyed, open-mouthed children and ushered them back to the other half of my wide-eyed, open-mouthed class. I knew I had to do something for all of us.
By the way, if you’re a first grade pro who has taken your class to the circus like 18 times in a row, just scroll past all of my dramatics and shake your head at me. I finally got it together! 🙂
“Look guys. There is so much noise here. There are so many people who are bumping into you. Yes, there are clowns. There is cotton candy. There are toys. And glow-thingies. But your job is to look at me. Follow me. The shoulder thing? Yeah, that’s not working. Let go of the person in front of you and look at me, the teacher. I’m taller than all of you. Do you see my head? Do you see me? Okay. Do you see me now? Keep looking at me, okay? Follow me and you will not get lost. Do not pay attention to the yellers, the crying people, and the fun toys and food. Pay attention to me and you will not get lost.”
Little by little, they all lost their glazed over expressions and nodded seriously at me. And every one of them followed me easily to their seats.
They just needed to know who to follow.
In our current society, we are living in a circus. It. Is. A. Circus. Every single day social media is filled up with another story for us to fight over. We have fought over Chick-fil-a, Target, a cup at Starbucks–a CUP, I tell you!–radio hosts, Christian authors who don’t say what we want them to say, and Christian authors who–SURPRISE–don’t agree with all of the alternate lifestyles that are popping up every day. We fought about two very human people who ran for office as if each of them had the power of heaven and hell. And we are still fighting.
This post is not about my thoughts on Chick-fil-a, although I do enjoy an occasional chicken mini or two. Or six.
This post is not about my view on Target’s new restroom policies, and Starbuck’s choice of cup to sell in December.
This post is not about Rick Burgess, a very popular radio host in my region whose extrememly painful journey with his daughter is being publicly picked apart by everyone far and wide…who have suddenly become experts on family relationships. This is not about his family, although that situation sparked the moments I’ve been spending with Jesus and the words I’m sharing now.
Oh, I have opinions. And I have convictions. Strong ones. I have beliefs. And it gets really tempting to
shout scream holler share my convictions. Conviction is important, especially to the Christian. We need to know what we believe and why we beleive it. And we need to examine ourselves before the Lord to see if our convictions hold true to Him and His word.
But that is not what this post is about.
We’ve heard enough on everyone’s stance. We don’t hear another person’s.
This post is about what happens to me when a new exhibit comes to the circus that we call our modern society. And I’m sharing this because I think it’s happening to some of you, too.
So, this past weekend, when everyone’s Facebook and Twitter and whatever else blew up in the Southeast and beyond with the conflict between radio host Rick Burgess and his daughter, the megaphones immediately started blowing.
He turned his back on his daughter. She threw him under the bus. He threw the Bible in her face. She jabbed him right where she knew it would hurt. She is nothing but a sinner. He is not without sin. Divorce is a sin. Gluttony is a sin. Homosexuality is a sin. His is worse. Hers is worse.
And then came the crowds, the peddlers, the entertainers, and the spectators. They called from every single side.
You’re not showing love. We shouldn’t condemn others. Throw the first stone. Are you without sin? She’s intolerant. He’s intolerant. You’re intolerant. You’re judgemental. You’re a redneck. You’re a hippie. You’re not like me. You don’t agree with me. You’re promoting hate.
And on and on and on and on. And. On. It. Goes. Until the batteries on these megaphones will start to fade out and the crowds will grow hoarse from their screaming and the lights will begin to lose their luster. We will eventually simmer down from the current argument but our own personal feelings of frustration and anger will fester and grow until the next exhibit comes upon us.
But meanwhile, I’m like one of those first graders in the circus. I started out on this path knowing exactly where I’m going, and then I hit the megaphones. And I started hearing the accusations and the yelling and the rudeness. I started swiveling my head to the left and the right and watching the fingers jab in my face because what I believe doesn’t match up with what someone else thinks should be right.
I start to lose my foothold, so I put my hands on the shoulders in front of me. That’ll be okay, right? Maybe a favorite Christian author or blogger that I respect so much. Or even a pastor. Ooh, how about one that’s on TV? But then the person whose shoulders I’m grabbing onto stops and joins the fray, and I’m suddenly lost. I’m wide-eyed and open-mouthed, and I’m not getting to my destination anytime soon this way.
When society erupts over a new fight, I know where I stand in my faith. I know Who I belong to. But when I start looking to the left and the right and to other humans for all my answers, who–just like me–are sinners and imperfect, I get lost.
What should I believe about sin, Jesus? It’s wrong, right? It’s all wrong, right? Is one worse than the other? But do we celebrate one sin and not the other? Do we laugh off one sin and hide the other? Lord, am I a sinner if I shop at this place? Am I hateful if I eat at this place? If I show kindness to this person, am I condoning what I think is sin? But what about me? I’m a sinner too, Jesus. No news there. Jesus, if I don’t agree with them, I can still associate with them, right? Lord, I am so mad at that one “megaphone hog” that’s being hateful to me because they don’t like what I believe! I wish I could just…ughh! Jesus, where do I go from here? Jesus, where do I place my foot next?
Jesus. He is what is missing here. I have started focusing more on the yelling, even the object of the yelling, and even the conviction that starts the yelling…more than Jesus. And that’s exactly where the devil wants me to be.
Jesus? What do you want me to do? Where do you want me to look?
And suddenly, it all fades away.
Beloved. There is so much noise here. There are so many people who are bumping into you. Yes, there is yelling. There is sin. There are imperfections. And trouble. But your job is to look at Me. Follow Me. Following other humans? That’s not working. Let go of the person in front of you and look at Me, the Teacher. You’re Father. You’re Guide. I’m bigger than all of it. Do you hear Me? Do you see Me? Okay. Keep looking at me, okay, Child? Follow Me and you will not get lost. Do not pay attention to the yellers, the cryers, the noise, the distractions of your enemy. Pay attention to Me and you will not get lost.
And that is enough. I no longer feel the need to make a political stance, share my opinion, or my views on a host of things that affect the hearts of so many people. I’m not belittling anyone’s feelings or heart, here. But I’m noticing the greatness of my God. He is more important than your feelings or mine. He is more important than the argument.
Friend, if you feel caught up in the current trappings of our imperfect world full of imperfect people, follow the only One who is perfect. He will get you through the circus. He will get you to your destination. He will use His Word, His voice, and yes, other imperfect people (just don’t grab on too tight to their shoulders, okay? Because no one is perfect.) to show you the way.
“He, your Teacher will no longer hide Himself, but your eyes will behold your Teacher. Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left.” Isaiah 30:20-21