These are my teachers. They’re pretty cute and pretty cool. They’ve taught me about the love of God, my desire for control, to love others without conditions, my lack of patience and lately, they’ve taught me what incarnational means.
The idea of being a missional community relies heavily on understanding and modeling the incarnation of Jesus. The incarnation is Jesus coming down from heaven and being embodied in the flesh as a man. To be incarnational is to embody Jesus to your neighbor, your co-worker or your neighborhood through His love, mercy, and truth. Great concept, but often hard to practically live out or even explain.
Luckily I have some good (and cute) teachers. This last weekend my wife went on our church’s women’s retreat and spoke beautifully on wisdom. This meant a dad weekend with me and our 3 kids.
We all remember those times when mom left and dad took care of us (prayed we wouldn’t die). You never really left the house unless it was to get fast food and you did everything mom wouldn’t let you do just as long as everything was put somewhat back together before mom got home.
I decided to do one twist on this idea and take my kids to Madison Square Park’s playground and then Shake Shack. A great idea by all accounts, except a NYC public playground in a city center park is asking for 50 “did my kid just disappear” heart stopping moments with so many people there. But we went, we survived and we enjoyed Shake Shack.
While at the playground, my boys kept begging me to come play their game. I initially resisted because it’s their game, I’m an adult (or try to be). Adults on NYC playgrounds sit on benches, dads focus on their phone, and make sure their kids don’t get lost or hurt other kids. Don’t these kids know we are too busy with email, twitter & keeping up with March Madness?!?
Nevertheless they kept asking me to join them, so I did. I climbed onto the playground and participated in their game in the part of superhero or villain depending on the moment. I was having a lot of fun and laughing with them and I looked up to see what was going on around the rest of the playground and that’s when it hit me.
I saw parents on park benches resting, talking on their phones or typing out emails and texts. Nothing wrong with what they were doing but I was experiencing something better. My sons had invited me off the sidelines and into the game. It struck me that this must be what incarnational really means.
It’s a step out of what is comfortable to join in someone else’s life, to be a participant in their life, enjoy getting to know them and laughing a lot, but sometimes crying with them. In doing so, it’s naturally displaying how Jesus lived in this world. Agreeing to meals, stepping away from the religious sidelines, and into the game of someone else’s life. Loving someone else over your plan or your own needs because that is what Christ has done for you.
Jesus rejoiced with those who were rejoicing and mourned with those who mourned and everything in between. God’s people get to experience this kind of love from God to extend this kind of love in placing value on others rather than just themselves. It’s simply loving others as people, letting them into your life as they let you into theirs.
In being invited to play on the playground and accepting, I learned that putting aside my preferences, my comfort, and a little of my reputation was worth it for the joy of experiencing life with my boys. Incarnational sounds challenging in concept to fully embody Jesus to others, but in the end it’s a joy for you just as it is for others.
Like I said, they are great teachers.