God comes so close to us and we come so close to God

I’m teaching third grade Sunday School at my church. This is a new sort of thing for me. I don’t necessarily feel at my most capable with children. Yes, I know, I’m a mom. Aren’t moms supposed to be good with kids? I tend to think I’m good with my own. (Sometimes.) And I tend to think I’m good with their friends, especially when their friends’ parents are around so I don’t have to be in charge. But, in general? Did I ever want to be a teacher of young kids? No. Have I ever feel like being with large groups of children feeds my soul in the way that writing or being with high school or college students does? Never. I’m made for older-younger people who don’t wiggle so much.

Why am I teaching Sunday School, then? There’s a couple of reasons. One is that there was a need and I want to serve in small ways where the need is. Sometimes I think we have to protect our time carefully and only do what feeds us. And sometimes (maybe?), we have the chance to give anyway. Here’s the truth: Writing here feeds me. Writing my book feeds me.

But writing can also hurt me when I allow it to feeds two separate parts of my False Self. When I’m not living out of the part of me that Jesus has redeemed, that Jesus is redeeming, then I crash into two separate places in my mind. One of those parts is Vain Micha. She wants you to think she’s smart and gifted and special and wise. And when you tell Vain Micha that she’s all of those things, she eats those words and they rot in her. Those words rot in her until she forgets what’s real about the need of the world and what’s real about the beauty of the people who around her. She forgets her own value is not found in how “special” she is.

The other side of my mind is Insecure Micha. She also wants you to tell her she’s smart and gifted and special and wise. But she takes those words and binges on them. She throws them in her mouth and doesn’t stop to breathe. And then those words are never enough. Insecure Micha is not fed by those words. She needs more and more and always comes up unfulfilled.

Real Micha is in there too. And I’m learning to seek her out. I’m learning to send the good words straight to her. To let her look at “smart and gifted and special and wise” in light of the world and the reality of her own need. To look at Jesus and find her place in his beloved family. To look at what Real Micha has to offer, which is equal to what every other person in this world has to offer. Not more, not less.

I recently learned how the root word of humility is humus, “earthed.” There’s something to that, to being rooted in the ground, in Reality. I love that humility is actually recognizing what’s real and seeing ourselves in light of that. I want to be Real Micha. Christ’s beloved Micha. No more. Not less.

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There’s something to the challenge of teaching those wiggly 3rd grade things who can’t quite figure out how to stay in criss-cross applesauce long enough to listen to the story, that reminds me of what’s REAL. What’s real is that we all need each other. And we’re all struggling to live from our real selves and not our false selves. We’re all wiggling through the story God is telling–interrupting with our own ideas just as the story’s getting good.

My church uses the Godly Play model for teaching the story of scripture to children. (Something I’d love to tell you more about as I learn more.) I’m drawn to the concept of Godly Play because its form of storytelling is mysterious. And it leaves room for children to process the reality of a God who enters into our space on this earth and moves among us. These are not moral lessons, they are opportunities for worship.

In Godly Play, whenever a biblical character experiences the power of God, the storyteller always says it the way I explained the story of the Exodus yesterday: “God came so close to Moses and Moses came so close to God that…”

The sea parted

And the people went through.

God came so close to us and we came so close to God. I can never say those words without feeling the power of what I’m saying. So close to God, not that youth group Christian cliche I once used to define a Christian’s status on the Awesome Spectrum, but a sacred, profound, mysterious reality. So close to God. It is possible. The world is packed full of the thin places, where miracles happen, where God’s goodness is crashing into our flailing selves. It exists. God is coming close to us. We are coming close to God.

I want God to come so close here. Not to feed Vain Micha’s rotting insides or Insecure Micha’s desperation. But to dig into the ground, into reality. So that when God comes close, I recognize the Holy colliding into the earth around me.

I want miracles. Don’t you? And sometimes the biggest miracle is in what’s actually Real.

God coming so close to us that we recognize the us we have always been meant to be.

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Note: Throughout this school year, I’ll be taking a lay-counseling class at my church called “Renewal and Care.” I can’t tell you all how excited I am about what I’m already learning and how thrilled I am to share it with you. The idea of a “False Self” and “True Self” dichotomy is one I’m learning about in this class. Also, I have to give credit to my spiritual director (from afar) Debby Bellingham for helping me think about Vain Micha and Insecure Micha (my words, not hers!).

Photo Credit: The Wandering Angel on Flickr

  • http://www.leighkramer.com/ Leigh Kramer

    I needed to read this. That class sounds amazing! Also, I like all of you.

    • michaboyett

      You, Ms Leigh, are the dearest. Thank you for liking even my yuckiest parts. xoxo

  • pastordt

    I can SO tell that you are in direction. Such richness here, Micha. Thanks for talking this through with all of us – and many blessings as you teach these littler ones. I loved my own kids, but too many people under 10 make me a little bit crazy. Give me 10 and up any day – so I’m proud of and grateful to you for stepping into this gap. (And I know all about ‘vain’ and ‘insecure’ personality slices. :>) So glad you’re doing this class – you will love doing this work. And you will be good at it, too.

    • michaboyett

      Thank you so much, Diana. I haven’t been in direction for a couple of years, since i moved to Austin. But sometimes I beg via email for a prayer practice or two from my former spiritual director, who now lives in NY. Thanks for faithfully reading and commenting here, friend. I love seeing your face in my comment section…

  • Jeannie

    Thank you for this post – the real/false self part makes so much sense to me. I also love the “God came so close” part. I was reflecting this past week on one line of a song we sing in church: “The One who reigns forever, He is a friend of mine.” I love that awesome paradox, that the Creator and King of the universe comes so close to us — because He loves us. So I appreciate a different way of thinking about that. Thanks.

    • michaboyett

      Yes. I love that thought too, Jeannie. And I agree: It’s so helpful to think about a spiritual truth from a different angle. Sometimes a new perspective can open up the whole thing.


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