Sunday, June 19, 2011

Almost Middle School Boys (and Girl) and a Superhero

I teach almost-middle school boys on Wednesday nights. There are usually a few girls as well, but this week, it was just me and the boys and only the quietest of the girls. Of all people, I'm glad it was they with whom I shared my adventure through Revelation Chapter 1. It all started when we were given that text to see in scripture symbols, similes, and metaphors.

Have I mentioned that I was an English major and took an English course at a secular university called Literary Interpretation of the Bible? This little lesson had me giddy and my boys (and girl) rolling their eyes saying, "This is like Language Arts—in the summer! Ughhh!" (Don't think their simile was lost on me.)

But, just as every good teacher does, I forged ahead with full confidence that they just might learn something from this tedious lesson. After reviewing the definitions of literary devices, we began marking key words, among them "seven stars" and "lampstand."

As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches. ~verse 20
"Okay, guys, I don't want to hear any more about lampstands and stars. Those words are code words." I pause to look over both shoulders for anyone who might be eavesdropping and add quietly, "They really mean angels and churches. Got it?"

They sat up taller in their seats, leaned in a bit just in case there were more secrets to be divulged.

Then we noticed that in the middle of these golden lampstands churches was a simile: One like a son of man with hair like white wool and snow, eyes like fire, feet like bronze heated in a furnace, a voice that sounded like Waikiki Beach when the surf's up or the thunder of Niagara Falls, with a two-edged sword in his mouth, his face shining like the sun!

"Alright, Detectives, sketch the scene, sort of like a wanted poster of a criminal. Draw the details the eyewitness, John, gives us so we can identify our Man."

Circulation of colored pencils and drawing commenced. Lame, long-forgotten images of language arts class are now replaced by Crayola superheros emerging in the comic book square of little boys' (and girl's) workbooks. Mine, too.

Since my own pathetic mug shot of the Christ interrupting church was beginning to border on sacrilege, and the boys (and girl) are completely involved in their own renderings, I stop drawing and capitalize on their distracted attention.

"What if this Guy showed up in the middle of OUR church?"

"I'd be scared!" said P, drawing hot, angry flames at his Hero's feet.

"Me, too,"  I said, feeling sure this vivid image is Who I will stand before at judgement, alone and afraid—my deeds being tried by the very fire P drew. This Revelation-comic-book image of Super-human Jesus matches my Judgment Day Jesus. But oddly, not the Jesus of What a Friend We Have In Jesus, the hymn I haven't been able to get out of my head since last Sunday for some reason.

I'm lost in thought now; the kids still engrossed in their drawing; Why can't I see the Superhero Jesus when I'm tempted, and the Friendly Jesus on Judgment Day? I'd be more victorious AND more peaceful, making Jesus even happier with me. Jesus could save the day and I could live happily ever after....

T breaks my reverie, when, still drawing a sharp two-edged sword and never looking up from his work, he quietly thinks out loud,

"I wouldn't be afraid if I knew He was on my team."

And with that, a little boy taught me, straight from the not-so-difficult-to-understand-after-all Book of Revelation, that the fiery Superhero's not so scary when He's your Friend.

I could have lept a tall building in a single bound.

And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven." ~Matthew 8:2

Hearing it on Wednesday night, living it out on Thursday morning, as it turns out.

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