I am re-reading one of my favourite books at the moment; ‘Everything I ever need to know I learned in kindergarten’ by Robert Fulgham. It is a collection of stories both mundane and marvellous from the Robert’s life. In each story he sees a lesson that he carries into his future that tells him a little more about life on earth.
I have just reached my favourite story. Robert is left in charge of a group of 80 7-10 year olds. Like all wise adults left in this life threatening situation he arranges a game. The game he chooses is Giants, Wizards and Dwarves. For those of you who don’t know this game it is basically a large scale version of rock, paper, scissors. Wizards beat giants through some flick of their wands, giants beat dwarves by stepping on them and dwarves beat wizards by, I don’t know, biting their knees.
Robert explains the rules and calls the Tolkienesque battle to its commencement. Not long after shouting go he feels a tug on this shirt. He turns round and looks down into the smiling face of a curly-blonde haired, blue eyed girl.
“Um… where do the mermaids go?”
“The mermaids? I am sorry dear there are no mermaids,” Robert says covering his disappointment that she hadn’t listened to his very clear rules, “there are only giants, wizards and dwarves. No mermaids.”
“Well, of course there are mermaids, I’m one,” replied the girl with a hint of incredulity in her voice.
Robert realised that this was something much greater than a little girl that didn’t listen. You see this little girl listened very well but she just didn’t belong in any of the three categories on offer, she was something much more like her; a mermaid.
“Well,” said Robert, “You’re in luck my mermaid friend, because I am the King of the Sea and the mermaids stand right here with me.”
I think that story is packed full of reality. You see I have had conversations with hundreds of people who feel just like that little girl. They look at the world and think there are limited numbers of ways to belong and when they are honest with themselves they don’t belong in any of those categories. I think that one of the saddest things is that when these people look at the church they feel even more like they don’t belong.
I’ve had conversations with so many people who say things like, “Oh I’m not the church type,” or”Churches aren’t for people like me.” All the while there is a God in the centre of the Christian church who is saying that they are exactly the type of person He wants in His church.
I don’t know how to the church got the reputation that is for certain types of people. Perhaps it was a misdirected desire to be holy that led to people receiving disqualification when they should have been offered restoration. Perhaps we spent so long working on our services and excellence that we forgot how to love and welcome. Perhaps it is something else entirely that is a mix of reality and rumour. All I know is that there are people who have felt that they cannot come to Jesus because of their past or present, family situation, background, educational achievements, tattoos, piercings, addictions, sexuality, relationships, fears and dreams. Yet Jesus is exactly for them, they are unique and important parts of his design and church is exactly where they belong. They are sat in the shallows, trying to hide their tails in the surf as only giants, wizards and dwarves belong.
The challenge of the story is in two parts. For us in the church: let’s work on our welcome and our message of acceptance. Let us be a people who want to share family with those who are around us. That is what we are here for. For those who are looking into the church feeling like it is not for them; give it another try, take a risk and go again. If you can’t think of a church to try message me and I will advise you of a good one, there are loads that are waiting to welcome you and help you find Jesus who has already accepted you as you are.
King Jesus is waiting for you to come and stand beside Him, because He is a home for mermaids.