In all of the books that followed Dorothy always came back to Oz For somehow she knew that Kansas Was not really home, because
A new world had opened unto her Where dreams and fantasies come true And never again would the shallow and mundane Satisfy her – for now she knew –
That in spite of small men behind curtains She had heard in her heart a call Quietly beckoning her to the True Wizard The greatest wizard of all.
Somewhere this side of the rainbow we seem to have lost or misplaced our sense of mystery. We take no risks, upset no apple carts, ask no embarrassing questions, and express no doubts that we have all the answers. We play it safe, stuff our brains with clichés, and don’t dare go into unfamiliar territory. Everything must have an explanation. Every movie must have a satisfactory ending. Every song must resolve into a major chord. Every book must have an epilogue that ties up all loose ends. We want it neat and tidy with nothing left out of place.
I have come to believe that the neatly packaged life is no life at all, and neatly packaged faith is no faith at all, and certainly I know that the neatly packaged god is no god at all. Speaking to some preachers I once said that if you can answer all the questions, and explain all the difficulties about God, you had better get you a bigger one because the one you have is not God.
My favorite author Brennan Manning says in “Ruthless Trust” that truth cannot be left in the hands of theologians and purely logical people, but that we must “bring in the artists, the mystics, and the clowns.” They are here to remind you and me that life is to be enjoyed; that chances are worth taking, that we will never get it all figured out, and that it is okay that we are not controlling things. The artists teach us that He is the author of beauty because He likes it too. The mystics show us that truth is found not in proposition but in experience. The clowns illustrate to us that God is not an uptight and angry bookkeeper, but is adventurous, passionate, creative, fascinating, and (dare I say it?) fun! If this is true, it is quite an accomplishment that we have managed to make church so boring!
I came from a background where I was taught to be “consistent”, meaning I was supposed to be predictable and traditional, to always try to “fit in”. No more! Now I am learning, growing, changing, and don’t plan to stop. In the process I will sometimes be wrong about things, but it is a risk I am willing to take, because the alternative is to stagnate and die. Sometimes I tell people that if they only want to hear what they already know and believe, we could have all stayed home. Usually they listen and consider what is said, and then if it isn’t good they can set me straight. I have no desire to be a heretic.
Frederick Buechner writes that “the killjoys, the phonies, the nit-pickers, the holier-than-thous, the loveless and cheerless and irrelevant” are the ones who are quick to claim that they know the truth. Then he adds this remarkable sentence: “ When Jesus is asked who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, He reaches into the crowd and pulls out a CHILD…. and says unless you can become like that, don’t bother to ask!”
Somewhere deep within our soul there is a child like Dorothy who listens for a different voice and faintly feels a longing to go beyond what we can see and understand and explain. We intuitively know that there is more meaning to our lives than to just survive and succeed on the surface. We are scarecrows desiring a brain, tin men in need of a heart, and lions who desperately want to become brave. We’re looking for the yellow brick road, and we need something or somebody to help us find it and stay on it. We know that it’s a scary trip. Many times I have glimpsed past the rainbow and turned back because I was afraid to go. But the call would not go away.
Once you leave Kansas there are no experts. But if you will read again the lines of my little poem, you’ll notice that after all it really is not a call to go away.
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