Lost in the Familiar

I have taught children most of my life. Certain passages are favorites in our children’s classrooms. As a children’s minister I hope that children become familiar with the Bible and develop an understanding of God’s story.  Most Bible class curriculum teaches 150 narratives that will give children a solid foundation of the God’s story.

Two of those passages are in John 6. Who can pass up telling and re-telling the feeding of the five thousand? I love that story. It even includes a young boy. I love to imagine how Andrew knew about the young boy’s food, did he just pick him out of the crowd, or did the boy offer up his loaves and fishes? And then, as if that isn’t enough to pull in the youngest of readers, Jesus WALKS ON WATER. We have created boats and pretended to be the disciples as Jesus walks right up and gets into the boat. “Now kids, can you show me your scared face?” I might say. Imagine 15 kindergarten kids with their best, over-acted, scared faces. And then, one sweet little boy steps into the make-shift boat and says in a low and powerful superhero voice, “It is I. don’t be afraid.” Imagine 15 kindergarten kids with their best, over-acted, happy faces. Who can pass up teaching that Bible story!

Over time, the children hear these stories so often that they become familiar with them. There was this one time that Jesus fed 5000 people … and another time he walked on water … let’s not forget raising people from the dead … or overcoming death after three days in the tomb. These facts turn Jesus into the kid’s favorite Bible super hero, not unlike their favorite Avenger.

Sometimes, I think we teach the mystery of God’s power right out of the Bible. We make Bible stories so familiar that we forget to see God’s hand all over it. We forget that only one person in all of history could have fed 5000 people with those loaves and fishes. We talk about Jesus walking on water as if it was an everyday occurrence.

The extraordinary can be lost in familiarity.

Pitter-patter of toddler feet first thing in the morning is so familiar to a Mom that she can hear the soft shhhh-shhhh on the carpet while never hearing the alarm clock go off right beside her.

Spouses commit to each other and keep their marriage covenant in good times and bad.

Friends enter into each other’s darkest moments, sharing pain and showing unconditional love.

These things become so familiar that we lose sight of the God’s power in them. A Mom becomes so attuned to the tiny creation that God gifted her family with that she can hear the tiniest of noises, so that the child is always safe. Spouses forgive even when it hurts, forgiving as Jesus did on the cross. A friend remains in the life of someone in despair because they are committed to showing compassion and mercy and love. The extraordinary is there in the familiar if we are only willing to dig below the surface and enter into God’s story.

Many disciples deserted Jesus. These disciples could not recognize the Messiah standing right before them because they were so familiar with the prophecy they could not reframe it and see Jesus for who He was. God in flesh, the extraordinary, was in their midst. Yet they walked away. His teachings were too hard because He was not what they had been expecting. They preferred the familiar. The familiar is easy. It allows us to walk away believing that God was not there at all. Don’t give in to the familiar; always look deeply for the extraordinary … the eternal.

Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval. (John 6:26,27)

Shannon Rains Children and Family Minister Kingwood Church of Christ Kingwood, TX