04 August 2009

Growing Up

"..she stretched out her arms for the three little selfish children they would never envelop again. Yes, they did, they went round Wendy and John and Michael, who had slipped out of bed and run to her.
"George, George!" she cried when she could speak; and Mr. Darling woke to share her bliss, and Nana came rushing in. There could not have been a lovelier sight; but there was none to see it except a little boy who was staring in at the window. He had had ecstasies innumerable that other children can never know; but he was looking through the window at the one joy from which he must be for ever barred."

It has been far too long since I've had the tragedy of a story knock me off kilter completely.
The above is from J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan, a book whose ending reads almost like an epilogue, but whose events are so wrenching as to nearly bring me to tears several times. But I honestly don't know which upsets me more--the image of Peter Pan, a forgotten child outside of both window and normalcy forever;  or the reality of Wendy growing up.


 I see a lot of Wendy in myself. A curious little mother that didn't forget the lost boys. A girl that once played in mermaid lagoons and ran from pirates. She was child-like enough to fly with Peter and be in Neverland, but remembered enough of the world to be a mother and to care for her own. If only for a season, she could draw from both worlds and have the best from each.

But soon enough, she underwent a kind of transformation that must exist in order for the Peter Pans of the world to always have someone care for them. She died, in a certain sense, by growing up. But because of that there would always be a daughter to do the spring cleaning for Peter and the motherless. She left behind Neverland, a place of childhood dreams and simple morals, in order to grow up.

When you think about what it meant to come to this earth, to have our memories of our heavenly home, our Heavenly Parents, the precious truths we once knew hidden behind the veil, Peter Pan has a similar smack of that same growth process. There comes a time when we trade the truth of childhood innocence and simplicity for the truth of a conscious, accountable, sacrificing adult.

And just as Peter Pan keeps Neverland alive, a place of protection and joy for children and those with faith as children, so does Jesus Christ. That's why in 3 Nephi 17, we read:
19 And it came to pass that Jesus spake unto them, and bade them arise.
20 And they arose from the earth, and he said unto them: Blessed are ye because of your faith. And now behold, my joy is full.
21 And when he had said these words, he wept, and the multitude bare record of it, and he took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them.
22 And when he had done this he wept again;
23 And he spake unto the multitude, and said unto them: Behold your little ones.
This is without a doubt one of the tenderest moments in the entire Book of Mormon. The last time I read it, I didn't fully appreciate what it meant to be a child at His feet because I didn't know what it meant to be a child. In many ways, I still don't. And like Wendy, I thought it was something that I couldn't reclaim. Like Wendy, my parents needed me to grow up a long time ago, so that's what I did. And like Wendy, I always assumed that this meant that I probably would never see Neverland again.

But thankfully, I see now that I am wrong. I'm so beautifully wrong. You and I, and everyone else on this earth, CAN see Neverland again.

Why?
 
Because Jesus Christ lives! His Atonement doesn't just allow for forgiveness through repentance, and comfort in sickness and pain. His Atonement doesn't merely pay the price for our agency and learning by giving us the choice, and I daresay even say the permission at times, to break His rules. His Atonement also paid the price for us to go home again--home to our Heavenly Father, dwelling with Him and His associates in heaven. If we want to return to Neverland, there is no other name under heaven whereby man can be saved.
 
 
 
The promise of that immortal and eternal prize has been the backbone of every idea I've pursued in the past 3 years. It's because of the vision of the kingdom to come, the hope of Israel, that I try only to do those things that will please my Father in Heaven. It's because of the sins I've committed that I know that no other way but His way, through His Son, according to His laws, on His terms will have the power to exalt the entire human race. And it's from living the commandments, even when they make absolutely no logical sense at all, that I've come to appreciate what makes them true... the fact that they're still true, no matter what the circumstances.

The entire world could fall apart, both outside these walls and within the frailest human heart, and the message of the gospel would still be true. From childhood to adulthood, states of geography and mind alike, to people of every culture, throughout all time--the message of Jesus Christ and what He has done, is doing, and will do in the future will never cease to ring louder than the echo within His empty tomb. The only "never" about Neverland is that it shall NEVER disappear, halt, cease, or fail. Even in the face of moral relativism and militant atheism, the kingdom of God is at hand.

Why? Because someone VERY real, even Jesus Christ, was willing to give up the easier, even blissful existence that we've been given here on this earth. We are here, learning to live and thrive within our own families--His gift to us. But not Him. He is elsewhere, preparing a house of many mansions in which ALL have a place. In essence, our Peter Pan took His place beside our windows because that's where we needed Him the most.

But really, I have to wonder... just how much has He given up to be there? Was that part of His sacrifice--never being able to have a life like ours? Even if you only view that question in the context of His mortal life, sometimes I wonder what it was like for Him--even as a child. From the time He was young, His sacrifice was in flawless unison with what the Atonement required; a perfect, sinless life. I simply can't fathom that. No sin. His ability to learn would have been limited only by His capacity to take in information. How does one handle that kind of power, even as a child?

But a child shall lead them... just as Isaiah prophesied. And when we look at Christ in context with His Father, we see His total submission to the will of our Father in Heaven. That's exactly how Christ would have wanted us to see Him--a perfect Son. A submissive child.

That's why we read in Matthew 18:
  1 At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?

  2 And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,

  3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
So what does it mean to become as a little child? Obedience? Humility? Sacrifice? All of the above? Or are these just outward signs of the inward grace, and THAT is the answer?

I'll be honest, I don't know. It's a lesson that is taking me quite some time to learn. I've been paying closer attention to my family for this one, and that is never easy.

But I do know one thing. Reflecting again upon that image of Peter Pan outside of the window, this time focusing on the choice he had to make that night--whether to remain a lost boy or to be a child in the Darling home--I can't help but see one thing that frightens me most about Neverland.

How many people do I know that are standing at the window to the Gospel, trying to decide if they want to come in or not? How many people in my life will never meet another member of the Church? How many times have I passed up an opportunity to answer someone's prayer for the truth because I didn't go to them when they needed me? How many people are counting on me right now to share the truth with them, and neither one of us are aware of it?

Reflecting back on this message from the First Presidency, it's all too likely that this has already happened to me more times that I know. And that's a chilling prospect to me.

I may not know the meaning or reasoning behind all things, but I know enough to start opening my mouth to people I care about. And it's hard, and uncomfortable, and I've pretty much sucked at it so far. More than sucked. I've actually blown it a few times already. Just like Wendy, as described by her father, I can never do things half way.

But I'm not going to give up. I have too much to learn, there's too much to do, and time is more than a joke in the belly of a crocodile. It doesn't have to chase you at all in order to catch up with you. And it appears to me as if the First Presidency wants us to be more vocal in these times, following the injunction of Peter to "be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you." (1 Peter 3: 15)

And while they haven't asked me much about hope where I am right now because they're too busy asking me about polygamy, abortion, gay marriage, and everything else about the Church that doesn't matter, that doesn't mean I can't veer off topic slightly...

... say, the second star to the right, then straight on until morning?


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