Two of our grandsons usually spend the day at our place on Tuesday with dinner and then a bath (and into pyjamas) before we pop them back to mum and dad (shortly before their bedtime).
Children love routine!
The current bathtime routine includes bubbles (each has their own preferred bottle), much splashing (or “diving” as the two boys call it), and playing with cold water in little plastic bottles or cups. It can be raucous, noisy and wet (and usually is)! But as the “purpose” of bathtime is to get clean – if that happens through play rather than “work” … who am I to make them “work”?
Yesterday the differences in both were on display.
The older brother loves to initiate the splashing of his younger brother – but backs off when younger brother retaliates. Older brother’s problem is that younger brother has no fear of a faceful of water – warm or cold (whereas older brother does). So as the action gets steadily more enthusiastic, it isn’t long before older brother is claiming “foul” and wanting younger brother to stop. And (because they are both of “that” age) when things do calm down, older brother gives younger brother another sneaky faceful of water – and the action starts again (until another wailing “nooooooooo!!!!!” from older brother).
Anyway … younger brother was enjoying himself so much that partway through bathtime he looked at me (sitting beside the bath) and with a glint in his eye chucked a full cup of water straight at me! Great hilarity from the two boys at grandad’s (mock) anger and (really) wet clothes! And then the squeals of “faux-fear” as a I filled and flicked a small cup of cold water at younger brother in retaliation! All just having fun!!
Then soon after it was time for “plug out” and pyjamas (with a lot of “calming down”) before bundling them in the care and taking them home. What these boys learn from all these “little routines” I have no idea.
But I think we have become a tad obsessed with “learning”. A tad focused on “teaching” and life “lessons”. A little divorced from the simplicity of just having fun because fun is … fun!
And the “fun” will change (and has already) as they each grow. What works for a one year old is of little interest to a four year old, and – as they keep growing – having a shared bath with granddad supervising will become the most excruciatingly embarrassing thing you could ask of them ever (until the next excruciatingly embarrassing request).
“As they keep growing … ”
How often do we see that “growing” conversation in church? How often do we see having fun with God or Jesus as okay and to be encouraged? How often would chucking a “cup of water” directly at God in questions … or jokes … or banter … or the pub … or anywhere and everywhere … be encouraged as a “corporate and institutional” way of relating to God?
Why so often is that judged irreligious and irreverent?
Why is the bible “study”? Why is Sunday “school”? Why is God taught as being on a corporate and institutional pedestal? A pedestal we cannot wobble, climb on, sit beside, chuck a cup of cold water at – or have much fun with at all?
Why do we seem to prefer to keep God (a distant) man-made religion of worship and praise – of service and obedience – of cross and suffering? A religion that imposes so many rules of tradition and religion that God is the Big Stick and Jesus the Cuddly Carrot (but with the “God stick” behind him)?
Where is the growth in that?
Because isn’t “growth” simply becoming a disciple? And isn’t becoming a disciple the personal challenge of each?
But isn’t “love” first climbing up on “the pedestal” and having fun together? Isn’t love not having a pedestal at all?
So isn’t becoming – and being – “a disciple” impossible without love? And might that be why we seem to prefer the rules and traditions instead? If we fall in love we might have to become disciples – and where is the fun in that?