Sunday, April 12, 2009

Thomas Teaches Me Lessons for Life

So God has only gone and done it again. You may recall my whole bit on Balamory where God taught some valuable lessons by getting me engrossed in the weird aspects of the television my daughters watch. (You got to remember PC Plum, Suzie Sweet, Josie Jump and the rest, don’t forget that wonderful opening.) Well recently He did it again.

Now I’d retired to my bedroom after 2:30am so I was more than prepared to have to slowly drowsily get out of bed some six hours later and then get my carcass to get washed and the other stuff in preparation to make my way to work possibly getting here well past 10am in line with the recent state of events. However in the morning the wife got me out of slumbers a lot quicker than scheduled to get me to get the bin out ready for collection. If I was really still that asleep it would have been a grouchy experience, but for some reason I was just of a determined mind to just get the bin out and then get myself ready for work already. Much to my surprise it was only 8am so I’d barely had five hours sleep! Who would have thought?

In any case I get the personal hygiene stuff sorted and am just about to set off. The daughters had also rose and shone pretty early and had made their way downstairs to watch the television. In the absence of proper channels they were stuck with Channel Five. (God must love us to show us something even through Channel Five.) There was a bubbly black female presenter on, so that caught my attention straight away, what with the Josie Jump character and the Floella Benjamin standard it’s as though black female children’s presenters only come in one type. So after she did her spot – and let’s face it you have to be on something to present like that at that hour of the day – she led into a golden oldie.

Now at that time I could have still left and gone to work, but as usual something got my attention. I loved Thomas the Tank Engine. Not a huge favourite back in the day but a distinct favourite all the same. I would sit through an episode in waiting for the programme I wanted to watch afterwards back in the day. As with a lot of programmes from back in the day, one of the attractive, memorable features of the programme was
the theme tune – a jaunty melancholy and upbeat track at the same time. That seemed to fit the whole Ringo narrating bit to a tee.

When I caught this latest manifestation of the programme what should hit my ears but
a new theme. Now you know I’m getting old when I make a big deal of a new theme. What’s in a new theme – it’s for a new audience, Abigail and Deborah have absolutely no idea about Thomas from the old days and they are not bothered either. Oh but it bothers me, so I give the new theme a hearing heavily critical of the fact that they’ve besmirched me programme with a frivolity of a new track. (Geddit? Thomas the Tank Engine? New track? New track, eh? Geddit?)

I eventually gave the new theme a pass – it was not a gross transgression of human rights, what didn’t help though was the fact that the feel of the programme was the same as the old especially in retaining Ringo as the narrator. That was a minor issue, however, as I stuck around to catch what was going on with Thomas and Friends on this occasion.

Percy (the green one for those who know … and for those who don’t know), was getting late and got a berating from his driver for being late far too often. On returning to the shed where he rests he overheard his driver and the Fat Controller having a chat and hear FC mention the fact that the next day he’d be sending Percy to the scrap heap. Hearing this sent Percy into a state of heightened anxiety and a sleepless night. No word of assurance from Thomas in the morning could help.

So with renewed haste, Percy tackled the new day looking to hurry to get things done. As a result of his haste he was in too much of a hurry to ensure some pipes were secured to his carriages and at the speed he was travelling they fell off and onto other rail tracks unbeknownst to him. Then he had to transport some hot sticky tar and although he was told to take care in transporting it, his rush caused him to go far to quickly ending up with him colliding the tar slap bang into Gordon (the tubbier blue one for those who know … and for those who don’t know) spilling the contents all over the brother. Obviously not best pleased Gordon said that FC would hear about this which sent the already anxious Percy over the top and so he did a runner. (I wonder the rail equivalent is of a runner?)

As FC on Thomas came looking for Percy after being informed by Gordon of the accident, Thom informs FC that Percy might be making an effort because of hearing what he had to say about the scrap heap. FC immediately asks all the trains to go on the look out for Percy as there had been a terrible misunderstanding. Having done a runner, however, the trains had a difficult time tracking him down. (Geddit? Thomas the Tank Engine? Tracking him down? Tracking him, eh? Geddit? Hold on have we been here before? Don’t suppose there’s any chance of me back-tracking? Geddit? etc.) Then because the programme’s named after him, Thomas has a bright idea of where Percy might be hiding and so goes to the secret location – alright it’s hardly that secret if someone else knows about it, but you get me, the hiding place.

Once at the hiding place where they see a fretting Percy awaiting his fate, FC gives Percy the fuller picture that in actuality he understood that the reason for Percy’s lateness was because he was working too hard. So all he’d said about the scrap bit was to get some stuff down there, then after doing that he could chill and just do the mail run for the rest of the week and relax. Having received this glad tidings and being relieved of the worry of being scrapped, Percy goes about his business (or leisure, if you like) resolving never to get caught up in following silly stories, especially ones made up by himself.

God’s grace says that it’s not because of anything we have done or that we can do that earns us favour with God. Indeed our best efforts at the right thing fall way short of His standards. Paul has that graphic way of conveying the sentiment with filthy rags, which apparently if we read the Greek wasn’t referring to the messy dish-cloths in the kitchen but something else, that women dispose themselves of on a cyclical basis. So our relationship with God is all grace – we are who we are because of grace, so there’s no need to struggle under the weight of legalism, perfectionism and the demands of others be it society, peer-group, media, church, work or whatever. Jesus’ invitation to come to Him and experience rest as we learn of Him is one in which we truly discover what it is to work, rest and play without the weight of the world on our shoulders.

What particularly gripped me though was how the episode reminded me of a particular theme I’m on in personal application on context, content, concept and conclusion. Percy’s actions (or conclusions) were based on a faulty understanding (concept). Not taking the time out to take on board Thom’s assurance which gave the wider context in which his actions were to be viewed, Percy chose to act on those wrong conclusions and thus ended up in a sticky situation. (By the way if you’re looking for an article without puns, I’m sure you’d have gathered by now you’re on the wrong track. Geddit? etc.)

A lot of us are coping, dealing, enduring, living with bad conclusions because of the inability to follow the principle of getting the context, content and concept right so we can get the right conclusion. One of those is me. This is why crucial decisions for the future have to be made wisely because in this season of emerging from the shadows it will call for applying that process in new ways that stretch my faith but does make it clear that my intentions are to follow Jesus Christ in the call in which He has called me, rather than being a man-pleaser.

Whilst reflecting on this truth on the journey walking to work it struck me again in the light of the story of the Prodigal Father how both sons had blatantly got their dad all wrong based on either licentiousness or legalism – wrong concepts leading to wrong conclusions and thus how it is important for us to reflect again consciously the context of the relationship with God. It’s initiated by God for the glory of God founded on reflecting His image on the earth those key characteristics of holiness and love to rightly manage that which He has entrusted to us. There’s no pressure as it were to produce.

The initial plan was for it to be a delight to produce and the fullest expression of humanity, but there’s nothing like rebellion to get in the way of that spoiling everything and never allowing us to get a grip on the content and concepts of that which we live. So we’re messing up conclusions all over the shop. We see wrong conclusions with God from atheism and secularism to idolatry and false religions; we see wrong conclusions with others – in abusive relationships of all hues and colours; we see wrong conclusions about our world – manifest in exploitation, manipulation, corruption, pollution and devastation of ecosystems and resources given to replenish the earth.

On the one hand it’s so obvious and on the other it is such an impossible cycle to break especially from the understanding that our rebellion against God is in our system – it is a part of our Adamic nature. That’s what makes this old story in the Bible so compelling – it’s the bigger picture issues – where we’re coming from – what is the context. The bigger picture helps us to make sense of the smaller picture – that’s why context is so important in reading our Bible and reading our lives and the lives of those around us. That context is not about doom and gloom alone it is one of hope, restoration, reconciliation and joy in new life in Christ that sees us re-establishing union with God in Christ.

We are then journeying towards the great day of the culmination of all things and the resplendent manifestation of the eternal kingdom wherein all is right with the world made new. That impacts how we do what we do in all of life now.

For His Name's Sake

No comments: