I woke up one morning in the usual way; with my 4 year daughter climbing into our bed and saying, "Daddy it's time to get up, I'm really really, really not tired." Thus began my routine, which ended by me kissing and hugging my wife and two kids goodbye and heading out the door to the car in the apartment parking lot below. I had no idea what was about to happen.
When I closed the front door (I suspect they waited for that), rabbits appeared, blocking the stairway - Seven of them. And if that wasn't unusual enough, they spoke. It was English - accent and all.
"Can we speak with you?" The largest rabbit asked, although by his tone it really wasn't a question.
"Um, sure." I responded. I was slightly taken back by the oddity of it all.
"Yeah, we've issues with your kind." Another rabbit spoke. This one was slightly smaller, and he wore a leather vest and had something of a cigarette hanging from his mouth. I wondered if it was carrot leaves.
"With the human race?" I asked, figuring that's what he meant, but it's always good to make sure when you're having a conversation that is better suited for dreams.
"No...well...yeah...rabbit stew for one...and a lucky rabbits foot? I should gnaw off your foot and carry it around for good luck and see you lucky you feel!" He was getting quite irritated and his breath was rapidly increasing as I could see his sides begin to bulge in and out. Before I could respond, the larger rabbit, which appeared to be the leader jumped in:
"It's true we have issues with that, but the reason were meeting with you is our issues with the church."
"The church?" I asked in disbelief. Talking rabbits are one thing, but talking rabbits seeking me out because they have a beef with the church? I had nothing to say. There was a moment of silence before he spoke again.
"Yeah, I know this seems weird to you-"
"But our boss, Bill, wanted us to find some people to talk to about our problems with the church." His ear gave a little twitch. He was quite serious. Figuring this might take a while, I grabbed a seat on the balcony and rested my back against the cold apartment building. The rabbits didn't seem to mind the cold. I tried not to get distracted by the buck teeth as the leader continued. "My name is Pridely. Well, that's not my real name, but that's what you can call me for the sake of this discussion. I've been named after a concern we have with the church. My six colleagues here are, Fakey, Selfly, Apathy, Greedly, Isolationly, and Knowledgey. Think of this as Scrooge, without the ghosts. Since I'm Pridely, naturally, I'm going to go first."
"Naturally." I responded with a hint of sarcasm. It felt more like the Seven Dwarfs than Scrooge. Pridely continued,
"The worst kind of pride is religious pride. It smells like a fox trying to make a peace deal with rabbits. It sounds good and it's a good clean talk. It's sly like a fox. But it stinks. It's fake. And if you buy into, or take part in it, you stink too. That's why Jesus yelled so much at the fphaarisees." He had a hard time saying Pharisees with the teeth he had, but I got his point.
"Wow...um...I'm sorry." I couldn't believe it; a talking rabbit outside my apartment on a Tuesday morning was leaving me speechless. I had to admit, I couldn't argue his point. I wanted to desperately ask why it was a rabbit telling me this, but I figured it was one of those mysteries God talks about in the Bible. "What can we do?" Great. Now I'm asking him for advice.
"Keep it real mac. Consider everyone else more highly than you, cause chances are, they really are. Remember you could be wrong, and chances are, you probably are. Always listen, even if you disagree. God's church is too busy arguing about whose right and I say, 'who the $%^# cares, get on with the Kingdom, get on with your calling!" When he cursed it actually sounded like he was smacking his tongue against his teeth rapidly, while singing 'Call Me When You're Sober'. I got the point. If a rabbit could put me in my place, anyone could. In the future, if I sense spiritual pride in anyone, I'm gonna send them to see Mr. Pridely - or whatever his real name was.
"Okay, Selfly, why don't you go next?" Pridely looked at a rabbit that was the fuzziest I'd ever seen. He was just as white as Pridley, but smaller, with a heck of a lot more hair (no pun intended).
"Shouldn't Fakey go next? He's the next in line?" I asked purely for curiosity. I figured I mine as well learn the sociological cultural norms of talking rabbits while I was at it.
"Listen bub, this isn't a Disney movie and things don't always go the way you'd like them too. It's life. And it's messy. Get used to it." Pridely was on his haunches crossing his front paws across his chest. I looked at Selfly;
"Okay, Selfly, what's your issue?"
"Me, myself, and I." Selfly stuck out his chest. White hairs bristling. "It's all about me. That's the problem with the church - Bless me, self-centered, Jesus help me Christianity. The self-indulgent gospel. Look at what sells, all the stuff about your best life, books of prayer about being blessed, sermon titles on how not to ruin your life, churches doing 40 days of purpose driven life and community. All half truths. Sure God desires to give us good things and bless us, sure he wants us to have a good life, and maybe even have purpose for 40 days, or even longer, but we take verses out of context, place them into our self-driven capitalistic culture, and hope God gives us what we want. And when he doesn't, we have a crisis; decide we did something wrong, or we need more faith, or the devil is stopping our prosperity. It's all so sneaky because it's partly true. But where's the balance? The promise of tribulation, the sacrifice, the pain, and most importantly, when do we learn that it's not really about us?" Selfly looked disgusted and I could tell he was playing the part. Underneath the acting job was a rabbit who desired to serve others. I wish I could say the same about me. Well, the serving others part. I was okay not being a rabbit...for now. He walked to the back of the pack. The sun was beginning to warm the morning a bit.
The rabbit with the tie and the big smile came next. I figured it was Fakey. I was right. He even had a gold watch on one paw and a gold bracelet on the other.
"I know what you're thinking," He said with a smile, "And yeah, those preachers on TV asking for money are a problem, most of them anyway, but the real problem is not on the tube, it's in the culture of Western Church. Yep, the one down the street." He actually sounded like he could pull off the preacher gig. "The problem is that when people walk in the church doors, real people, can't be real people. They have to put on the fake smile, give the fake handshake or hug, say it's been a busy week, but God is good, sit down, and an hour later after some more chit-chat, and then head home to a family that's falling part, and a faith that has no answers. The job sucks, the kids are running away, and God doesn't seem good at all at the moment. And yet, we can't share that in church. We can spill our guts out to our work buddy over a beer after work, but you better make sure you have that $%^#$* smile on come Sunday morning. Our bless me gospel has forced us to fake it when were not blessed, because if were not blessed, we don't line up with the gospel and therefore something is wrong with our faith. So we keep dragging ourselves and our kids to church hoping desperately for a real friend and a real God, but deep down we know we are just kidding ourselves." He took off the jewelry, dropped it at my feet and walked away. At this point, I began thinking what we can do to change things.
Sticking with the self-centered theme, Greedly was next. He was rather short and ... wide. He had a cell phone with the ear piece and was finishing up a stock trade when he came forward. He too had a watch and looked at before he spoke. He spoke rapidly and got the point.
"Jesus doesn't want 10%, he wants it all. Don't have $25,000 in your savings and say you have nothing to give because you met your quota of tithing for the month, when the person sitting next to you is eating Raman and hot dogs. Jesus gave it all. He wants us to do the same... or at least be willing to do so. Selfish bastards." He got on the phone again and hoped off...completely. He didn't even stick around like the others.
The next rabbit came forward. He was wearing a hoodie with holes cut out for the ears. And dark sunglasses, although he was standing in the shade. "I'm Isolationly. Like America before Pearl Harbor, I don't want to be involved. Leave me alone. Keep the Gays, Liberals, Animals Rights Activists, Environmentalist, and Evolutionists away from me. I want to stick with my Right Wing, Conservative, Christian, Moral Majority, White Picket Friends. Hide me in the church. If you're not like us, please don't come and if you do, please don't come back." He pulled his hoody tighter over his eyes and hoped away.
I swallowed hard. At this point I was just sitting and watching. And listening. For the first time, I really listened. I knew why God sent rabbits. I hadn't been listening to Him or to other people. I felt like Balaam.
The leather vested rabbit was next. As he hoped forward I swear I could almost see a puff of smoke coming from that cigarette in his mouth. "I'm Apathy. I don't $%^&* care." He stared at me and to break the moment of silence I asked a dumb question.
"Cigarette, dummy. What, you think I smoke carrot leaves or something?"
"The thought never crossed my mind." I lied and thought of the cloves in my car. At this point I couldn't decide if I wanted them more, or wanted to throw them away.
"I don't care. Don't make me lift a finger. I wanna sit in my cushy church chair and then go home. That making disciple stuff and sharing the good news, and helping the poor, are for the people who get paid to do it. That's why I tithe, so I don't have to do the work." He took another look, shook his head and hopped to the side.
"So I guess we've been pretty selfish eh?" I asked. I realize that all six of the rabbits, had different names and attitudes for the same thing. It was all about me. It was about me being blessed, me being comfortable, me being neat, and me doing nothing but my Sunday morning duty with an occasional Bible study or sharing of my faith. It wasn't my life, just my culture. I knew it was truth but never really lived it. The last rabbit confirmed by thoughts. He had reading glasses and carried a small Greek New Testament. He was knowledge.
"Good morning. Forgive my cousins here, they can be a bit harsh. But let me drive home the point. Life is harsh. Life is hard. We don't have all the answers. In fact, we don't have many at all. So we are on a quest. Unfortunately, our quest has lead us to the search for knowledge and not the search for life. Remember the Garden of Eden? Adam and Eve at from the tree of the "knowledge of good and evil". We always focus on the good and evil part and gloss over the knowledge. I think the knowledge is the key to that tree. Ever since then we have been dissecting and analyzing and going to seminary, and reading books to get knowledge. Knowledge on how have a better life; the three steps to blessing from God, or whatever. But we've forgotten the tree of life. That we need to partake of the tree of life. Jesus said he's the life. So why do we just learn about Jesus, but never really get to know Jesus. Why do we dissect scripture to it's lowest denominator, but never see the grand story of it all. We never see the forest through the trees. The beauty of the story of God invading our lives escapes us because we're too busy figuring out what the Greek root word is for mustache...or whatever. So my advice to you dear boy is to not run after the knowledge of good and evil, don't create new laws to live by, but stop and eat the fruit of life that is Jesus." He took off his glasses and laid the book at my feet. To my astonishment he jumped on my lap and sat down.
One by one the rabbits looked at me and hoped away. They didn't know what I was thinking, but they said the piece. My response had to be just that...mine. They could say no more to help me. Soon, all of them were gone but the one on my lap. His glasses were off now, and he was just a normal rabbit, sniffing and cuddling. I scratched his head between his ears. He wouldn't talk again. He wouldn't need to. My journey had begun.
Although this mysterious event could have been downright depressing, it wasn't. I guess God works that way. He can bring correction, but with it, there's always hope. There's always a sense of encouragement and direction. I gently placed the rabbit on the ground and got on my knees. The cold concrete penetrated through my pants. I knelt there, face down, for the longest time, just soaking in the sweet presence of God. For the first time, I felt free. I didn't have to be tied down the constraints of Western Civilized Christianity, I just had to follow the Life-giver, and was going to guide me.
This prayer came from my lips:
"Oh God, forgive me for being selfish, self-righteous, self-centered, and self-focused. Forgive me for allowing the culture to dictate who you are. Help me strip away the confines of culture to simply see you. Then help me contextualize your life giving reality so I can reveal you to others. I don't want to fake it. I don't want the gospel in four easy steps. I want to live like you lived. I want to love and serve like you did. Help me, because I can't do it on my own.
"Help me be a part of a community that doesn't concern itself with hierarchy or church politics, no cultural Christian laws. Help me create a place where people, no matter who they are or what they believe, or what part of the journey the are on, can come and feel your love, and our love and feel welcome and accepted. Help me find ways to connect with you beyond the Sunday morning pop-songs and 40 minute messages. Help me find new ways to dance with you and help me invite others to do the same. Help me be holistic and organic in my thinking. I don't even know what that means, but you are doing something new on the earth, which isn't new at all, but something that you lived when you lived here, and I want to be a part of it. Thank you for showing me my sin. Give me the grace to love you and love like you. Amen."
And with that, I took Knowledgely back inside my apartment and gave him to my daughters who squealed with delight.
"What are you going to name him?" My wife asked. Funny, how she took it all in stride.
"Mystery." I said.
I was sure that I saw him look back at me and wink.
David Fisher can be contacted at: