The BFG and the Gospel, Part 3: The Big Frightening God?
This series shares the content of the Wildkids Day Camp I'm leading for 5th/6th graders at our church this week.
God is often understood to be...
- Ancient and Enormous (un-relatable)
- Otherworldly (not usually around)
- Undetectable (only in our dreams?)
- Frightening (man-eating?)
- Confusing (uses big, strange words)
The Bible contains many stories about faith overcoming fear, confusion and many other obstacles to knowing God.
Today we are asking, "Is God the Big Frightening God?"
The BFG "kid-snatches" Sophie from the orphanage without explanation. The journey is terrifying for the little girl as she wonders what the giant will do to her. At his home, she fears he is amusing himself by conversing with her before intending to eat her. The suspense makes for good storytelling, especially if a first time reader doesn't know what BFG stands for. The BFG is Fascinating and then Frightening long before he is known to be Friendly...
In Matthew 14:22-33, after feeding the five thousand, Jesus sends the disciples off in the boat to cross the sea of Galilee without him. Given the fairly recent storm-calming, you may understand if the disciples were nervous to travel alone.
The rowing was painfully slow into a headwind and by the early morning hours (3-6am) they thought they were seeing things. A figure walking on the water. "Do you see that?" "Yes, you see it too?" "What could it be?" "It has to be a ghost!" "I wish Jesus was in the boat with us."
Suddenly, the frightening figure calls out, "Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid."
"That sounds like Jesus." "Yes, and it looks like it could be him." "But how is he...?"
Peter, ever the one to prove he is unafraid, ever the one to demonstrate fear, calls out: "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water."
In a burst of boldness, Peter steps out of the boat and walks on the water. He falters at the sight of the waves and, sinking, cries out, "Lord, save me." Jesus immediately does something a ghost could not do: takes Peter by the hand and pulls him back to the water's surface.
Back in the boat, the disciples worship Jesus, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."
I don't know why the BFG or Jesus left their people in suspense before relieving their fear. The BFG intended to pass Sophie by until she laid eyes on him and he felt required to remove her. The Gospel of Mark mentions "Jesus the Ghost" intended to pass the disciples right by until they cried out in fear. Why? Your guess is as good as mine.
There is a well-cultivated fear, awe, reverence of the Big God who can be most Frightening if need be. Yet, this is not how God primarily wishes to be known.
God wishes to be known in the hand that stretches into the waters to pull us out of the depths to peace, safety, and a new future.
These two great boat stories (see yesterday's post) demonstrate the journey of faith from "Who is this?" to "Truly you are God's Son!" If there were never wind and waves, we probably wouldn't be bothered to ask, seek, or knock in the first place.