Preschool

Five weeks ago, my family embarked on an expedition into a strange, almost surreal world. Our eldest went to preschool. Two days a week, I get to drop her off, slink away while she whimpers (and sometimes screams), and leave her behind for three hours. At the end of the three hours, the tears are gone, and my little girl is bubbling with excitement for all the stuff she did at school.

The preschool day starts off with time to play with toys and friends. Then the kids come together to sing a song about the days of the week and discuss the weather. Pretty soon, they read a story. Because it’s a Christian preschool, the kids spend a few minutes singing classic songs about Jesus (e.g., “Jesus Loves Me”) and learning a little bit about how He wants to be our friend. They do a craft, have a snack, and venture to the playground for a little recess. When they come back indoors, the kids sit on spots on the carpet and get a cute little stamp on their hands for being so good. Then mom or dad come to pick them up, and it’s time to go home.

Wouldn’t it be nice if everything in life was like preschool? I mean, kindergarten wasn’t terrible, but preschool was the greatest. Half days, if that, filled with all sorts of fun stuff. If you didn’t like what you were doing one instant, you had only to wait a couple of minutes, and it would change. And nothing about it was ever terribly intense.

Of course, we all recognize that we can’t stay in preschool forever. If we did, life would eventually grow dull, even boring. We would miss the intellectual challenges of first grade and beyond, the satisfaction of having put in a day’s worth of work, and the opportunity to provide for our families. In fact, I dare say that, if we all stayed in preschool our entire lives, we would end up miserable, unfulfilled, and absolutely poor.

Why is it, then, that so many of us choose to stay in preschool spiritually? Just like preschool, we think that church is supposed to be primarily a time to have fun and hang out with friends. We think that Sunday School and small group should be dominated by superficial small talk and – gulp – gossip. We expect the pastor to entertain us with a lively, story-filled sermon, worship to focus on how much Jesus loves us and wants to be our friend. When we actually do something to serve or minister, it’s supposed to be easy and fun, and there had better be good pot-lucks involved! There should be ample opportunity to “play around” (you can interpret that any way you wish), and we should all receive gratuitous pats on the back for being so good before we go home and go on about our own lives in any way we wish.

Do we not recognize that, when we fail to press forward in faith and allow Jesus to assert ever-increasing control over who we are what we do, we are allowing our faith to become dull, even boring? We are missing out on challenges which will compel us to know – to actually experience – God’s grace and power in new and amazing ways. We will never have the satisfaction of accomplishing something meaningful and real for the Lord. We will never know the wonder of allowing God to work in and through us to provide and minister.

I would submit that, when we content ourselves with remaining in spiritual preschool, we are missing all but the most absolutely basic benefits of the faith. We will never see the promise land that God promised Abraham. We will never raise our arms to effect the parting of the Red Sea like Moses. We won’t be transformed from a simple shepherd into a man after God’s own heart sitting on a throne as was David. We won’t hear the voice of God like the prophets. We will never change the world like Peter, James, and John. We will never play a part in the revolutionizing of lives as did St. Paul. And we will never see the full specter of God’s glory, experience the full wonder of His grace, or truly worship in the splendor of His holiness.

Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so (Hebrews 6:1-3 NIV).

I know, it sounds kind of scary, and it may not all be fun and games. But I bet that, if we will move on past the elementary teachings of the faith and press on toward Christian maturity, we’ll get a lot better prize than a cute stamp on our hand!

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