No, this isn’t really about “pantheism.”
And, no, this isn’t about how I see God in “Peter Pan.”
This is about wonder and childlikeness.
We are wrapping up a 4-month adventure in Seward, practicing and performing the musical “Peter Pan” — with a full orchestra no less! I play the father, Mr. Darling, and a pirate (see my lovely pirate costume above). I have (real life) daughters playing Peter Pan, Liza (the maid), Michael (the young son), and Jane (Wendy’s daughter). It’s been a family affair for our household.
While kids love “Pan,” there’s a lot that is very grown up about this story. There’s the crocodile who swallowed a clock–perhaps symbolizing the pursuit of time, a fear of many adults. There’s the desire to have a “mother” — a figure of responsibility. There’s the weight of the world exemplified in Mr. Darling’s stressed-out request for “a little less noise there” and Peter’s desire to not “think of solemn things.” And, yes, there is some violence — there are pirates, after all.
But this is a play that has, in particular, delighted children. It takes the audience to a Neverland of Lost Boys, magical animals, mysterious Indians, and fairies. It’s a place where kids can fly. Some of the language may be anachronistic at this point. But when Peter leads the children in singing “I won’t grow up!” he’s arguing for a reclamation of childhood that is just as fitting for today. It’s a call to wonder, to imagination, to childlikeness in a grown up world.
And, seeing the faces of the young children after the show, their eyes wide with wonder, it’s easy to realize how special it is to believe like this. Maybe we’ve all grown up too much.
I often feel like our faith is too grown up as well. Yes, in churches we deal with numbers and budgets and how many folks we have in attendance. We tackle grown up social issues and we work in people’s lives as they grapple with very adult situations. We work to design worship services and Bible studies that reach multiple generations. And we believe the message we proclaim is one of ultimate importance; it’s a matter or life and death…and life after death. It’s no laughing matter. It’s serious business.
Yet, I would argue, we don’t need fairies and pirates and flying boys to catch sight of the great mystery and majesty of our faith. Our Story in the Bible is filled enough with tales of miracles and amazements and adventures to restore a wonder to what we believe. After all, we have a God who can make all things new–even raising Jesus from the dead. That should cause us to wonder!
I know that Paul says, “When I was a child I thought like a child and when I became an adult I put an end to childish ways” in 1 Corinthians. I know that there is a seriousness to our faith.
But Peter Pan reminds me that Jesus says in Mark 10, “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
I want to be as full of wonder in my faith as those young kids in the front row of the theater have been to the sight of Peter Pan and Captain Hook and their very own “Tinkerbell.” Such is the awe and reverence and mystery that our God inspires in those who believe.