One of the joys of being a parent these days is the popularity of Lego, that imaginative toy full of possibilities. One of the sadnesses of parenting these days are the Lego kits that are hyper-specific and full of single-use pieces. I much prefer the old school lego: blocks to be moved around in an endless array of settings to make exciting scenes (highways, castles, dinosaurs, whatever). In my day (dang I can sound old sometimes!) I could make a car with Lego without the special pieces of today, just using those old block shaped pieces and the car could be van one minute and a Lambo the next. Lego is losing its creative power and capacity to inflame imagination and spark new little engineering minds as it more and more carefully designs its sets (I get that it must do this because we all already have the blocks but it still weakens the brand and my joy in it) and I don’t like it.
I often find the same can be true of the Christian faith: it was born with beautiful creative power and possibility and it can lose these traits over time. It can be fossilized, the risk is that over time the faith can be rendered flat, over-specific, one-size-fits all, with heavy/burdensome rules. Just as Lego is meant to be imaginative, Christianity is meant to be a living faith, always has been, and thus we must push back against fossilization. If the plethora of denominations teaches us nothing it else, it teaches us that Christianity is not one size fits all. From the beginning people have been encountering God and trying to fit the pieces together for their own lives and families and communities. Paul, Peter, the early church, they were experimenting, experiencing, walking a journey with surprises and wonders. They were finding blocks and organizing them creatively.
Too often today we think we know the whole path, how all the blocks fit together and where every block belongs. We know all the rules and truths, learn them and that’s it, break them, question them, deviate from them? There is no room for that, the pieces fit exactly where they fit, end of story (some story I say as I kick the Lego and leave the room). Maybe there is someone on our shoulder paralyzing our creative impulses, someone we do not want to fail or disappoint. I suspect more often we are not open to the Spirit of God working in us and through us because we are worried about what might happen or perhaps we feel foolish for leaning into the mysterious side of life as people living in a secular world.
One of the great joys in my faith life has been the times when I experience the presence of God, or a new idea, or maybe an old idea with a new emphasis, like a Lego block that was lost under the bed. God shows it to me and then I can pick it up, look at it carefully, imagine where it might fit and then try it. I can move it around to different places, and try employing it in different ways. I am not stuck with man-made instructions of how it all has to fit together. None of this is possible if I am stuck with what I have received from the “authorities” of the faith. And yet at the end of the day I am responsible for my faith—and you for yours—and so we must experiment, we must be open to new ideas and phrases and vocabularies, we must be true and honest and admit when something is unbelievable to us or simply has no meaningful application. We do well to embrace the older freer, mysterious and awe filled religion, powered by the very Spirit of God.
When was the last time you got excited by an idea or experience in faith? When is the last time you tried to move a block from one place to another? I encourage you to try it, the good thing with Lego blocks is you can always rebuild what was there, and the good thing about God is that he is merciful and forgiving so if you discover you have made a mistake, he will catch you.