Year after year, a reserved spot on my fifth-grade classroom wall displayed the same laminated poster. On it were the simple, yet profound words of Robert Fulghum titled, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Maybe you also remember seeing the same popular poster somewhere in your life.
After fulfilling my duty to laboriously read through the ENTIRE school handbook word after boring word, I pointed to the poster and read these words to my, by then, glassy-eyed students:
“ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the sandpile at Sunday School. These are the things I learned…”
At this point, I reminded them that since they had also learned these things in kindergarten, I was sure they could easily remember them. I turned up my volume and went on reading much more dramatically,
“·Share everything. ·Play fair. ·Don’t hit people. ·Put things back where you found them. ·Clean up your own mess. ·Don’t take things that aren’t yours. ·Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody. ·Wash your hands before you eat. ·Flush. ·Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. ·Live a balanced life—learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some. ·Take a nap every afternoon. ·When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.”
When we think about life in those terms, life should be pretty simple. Right? But, it rarely is.
Beneath all these actions listed by Fulghum lies something fundamental that non-believers can neither understand nor appreciate, much less perfect. “GOD IS LOVE, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.” (1 John 4:16b-17 NLT, emphasis mine)
We live in a “if it feels good do it” kind of world where we are invited to “have it our way” simply “because we’re worth it!” When our self-imposed stress screams, “You deserve a break today”, our automatic response is “Let’s go places!” As a result, we spend more than we have and our stress mounts higher than ever when the ATM asks, “What’s in your wallet?” If we are not careful, life can control us instead of us trusting God to control our lives.
Many around us quite possibly feel like one of my disgruntled readers. She commented on an Easter post, “This is just more religious nuttery!” Unfortunately, people like her haven’t met Love Himself. They haven’t received God’s grace. And perhaps, they have never witnessed true love in action. (Lord, send someone today to show her Your love!)
When advertisements loudly flaunt promises for a life better than the one we display, it might be time to go back to the basics. Maybe it’s time to take our hearts back to kindergarten and sit a while with Jesus.
As Christians, we know the gospel is simple:
God sent His Son Jesus to teach us how to love God and love people. (John 13:34-35, 1 John 4:9-10) That’s overwhelming love.
Jesus lived perfectly, loved powerfully, and died pitifully so that we could have a right relationship with God. (Romans 5:8) That’s saving grace.
God even empowered us with the indwelling Holy Spirit so that we can do and be more than we could ever do or be on our own. That’s relationship at its very best! (Romans 1:8)
As I brainstormed about this post, I asked my husband, “What is a rule you’d throw out for kids?” I expected something like be kind, tell the truth, or work hard. Instead, he could only think of his grandkids. So, he answered, “If you want something, ask Papa.” I laughed because that is so him. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that is exactly what we all need to do more of. When we want a better world for our children, we ask God to help us make it better. When we need to know how to love others better, we ask Jesus to teach us. When we want others to see the joy of the Lord in us, we ask the Holy Spirit to fill us to the brim. All we have to do is ask Papa!
Living an exemplary life of love, joy, and peace can’t be accomplished with superficial religion. THAT is religious nuttery at its finest! Rather, it comes from what Paul said to the Romans. I like the way Eugene Peterson paraphrases Romans 12:1-2 in The Message: “So, here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”
As the culture around us begins to swirl and morph, we don’t flail around helplessly. We grab hold of Jesus because He’s “the real thing”. We pay closer attention to the Spirit whispering unwavering truth in our ears because He helps us “think different”. As for God’s love, His “quality never goes out of style” and we aim for excellence in how we love others. We rest in His grace because we know that even when we fall short, God’s mercy is “good to the last drop.”
“This is how we have come to know love: He laid down his life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has this world’s goods and sees a fellow believer in need but withholds compassion from him — how does God’s love reside in him? Little children, let us not love in word or speech, but in action and in truth.” (1 John 3:16-18 CSB)