“Don’t walk on the cracks, or the bears will get you!” When you were a kid, I bet that at some point you said something like this when you walked down the street. It’s a fun game, a silly thing to do, a distraction, an entertainment, and exactly the type of thing that you should do when you’re young …
Someone recently said to me – in response to my saying I sometimes felt as thought I’d spent quite a bit of time trying not to walk on the metaphorical cracks I saw in my life, my character and my outlook – that walking on the cracks was part of the fun. I’d, quite honestly, forgotten that.
There’s an overwhelming sense of responsibility or burden placed on us, often by ourselves but more commonly by our culture(s) – whether secular or ‘sacred’ – to be mature and to put aside things like ‘walking on the cracks.’ I’m not so certain that’s a good thing.
I know that the Apostle Paul says that there’s a time to ‘put childish ways behind me’ but, I think he was concentrating on illustrating a point about growing in the experience and practise of faith rather than just being a killjoy! Also, I think Jesus has a more compelling argument about the value of ‘childishness’ when he rebukes His disciples for trying to stop the little children being brought to him. He says, “Unless you get over yourself, and start to think with that open-eyed, open-hearted innocence that children have, you’re most of the way towards missing the point!” – at least that’s my impromptu paraphrase of Mark 10:14-15.
My gracious friend is right, walking on the cracks is part of the fun – the idea that we might, on occasion, approach our faith with a sense of imaginative wonder and enjoyment in the simple things is just as much a valid way of getting on with this faith lark, as is ‘quiet times’ and Bible study.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t take our faith, and all the implications of belief, seriously; I’m suggesting that we don’t take ourselves too seriously all the time! One of the most compelling ideas for me within the Christian faith, is the idea of joy … not the notion of a sort of silliness you understand, but the idea that there’s a deep rooted, central, vital, essential experience of wonder and blessing within our faith. Tragically, it seems to me, that this experience is too often relegated to the margins, or discounted as frivolity or immaturity; there’s an abiding sense that Christianity is a religion that defines itself by what it tells people what they can’t do, what they shouldn’t do, and how worthless they are.
Jesus’ life and earthly ministry was all about telling people that they could do things, that they were worth something, that there was and is a loving God who actually wants to be involved in and with our fragile and transient lives, not some stern and distant Victorian father who only turns up to rebuke, condemn and punish. But, you only have to take a brief look around you, to the political and social culture, to the internet and social media to see that to most people (both inside and outside the environs of faith) still think that the God we worship is little more than an out-of-touch, increasingly judgemental, harsh, tyrannical, fundamentalist hanging judge.
Maybe it’s just me, but my experience – coming out of the Roman Catholic faith community when younger and re-discovering faith in my mid-twenties – just doesn’t marry up with that.
The Jesus I (re)discovered, the faith I (re)found was, and remains, full of possibility, not prohibitions; it’s full of wonder and discovery, not rules, regulations and restrictions; it’s a way of living creatively – sometimes with uncertainty and tension – not just thinking dogmatically and refusing to engage with the difficulties of everyday life.
You see the cracks can sometimes be helpful.
The cracks are those parts of life – either in us or around us – that we might shrink back from, for fear of ‘the bears’ or because we just don’t feel comfortable away from the security of things known and understood. The cracks are places where we probably don’t feel as solid in our faith, or as rooted in our beliefs and experiences’ The cracks are where we are out of our comfort zones and out of our depth … the cracks are exactly where we’ll find Jesus working in and through us. That’s why we should maybe be walking on the cracks.
The cracks are where we discover the fracture lines between what we think we know, and what we actually know – like the difference between describing what it feels like to be in love, and the experience of spending time with the person that you love, being with them, holding them close, resting in each other’s presence.
The cracks are where we’ll see chinks of light breaking through. We all know of that classic illustration of a light shining through the cracks in an earthenware jar/shade, don’t we? Yes, it’s a ubiquitous ‘classic’ almost, but it doesn’t lessen the fact that it carries truth.
The cracks might well be in places we hadn’t considered in our lives, but the light shines through every part. And maybe, just maybe, those cracks don’t need shoring up … at least not by us. The cracks can be where we can be finally be honest about our weaknesses and doubts and fears, and our inability to face them down, our lack of capability and strength in all manner of areas, our worries that we’re just not good enough and that if people really knew us they’d run a mile from our sinful, heretical, broken selves.
Yes, the cracks are sometimes where the ‘bears’ will get you, where the brokenness we all try to not think about lurks. But, the cracks are also where we might just find that those bears aren’t strong enough to overcome us, that the bears don’t get the last word.
Let’s go walk on some cracks.