One Thing I Learned About Mary Poppins…
Interesting that Ron Dunn would be leading a deep dive into the 10 Commandments at One Th1ng the same week I watched “Saving Mr. Banks”. I just might not have seen the connection between this movie and the second commandment, had God not juxtaposed these two events so closely.
No big spoiler here – if you’ve read the title of the movie, you know “Saving Mr. Banks” is a statement of identity for Mary Poppins. It’s what she was created to do: save Mr. Banks. The movie covers two stories in parallel: the childhood of Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers and the 1960s collaboration between Walt Disney Studios that gave birth to the big screen film. So, what does this have to do with the Ten Commandments, much less you and I?
Thanks, for asking. Let me dive into the “you and I” part first and the Commandment part should become pretty obvious along the roadside.[Spoiler?] As Travers’ father’s alcoholism began to take its toll on her father’s health and her mother began to break down under the stress, her aunt enters the picture – on whom she’d later base the beloved Poppins. But, this Mary Poppins – to save the family from utter destruction. But, while this Poppins could offer help to Travers’ beleaguered mother and siblings and limited care to her dying father, she couldn’t save her father from the damage already done. The story left me wondering how much of our adult lives we often spend trying to right childhood wrongs. Travers, who loved her father’s whimsical imaginations, apparently shut her self off from all childhood fun, save that which she wrote about in her books.
Mary Poppins was sent to save Mr. Banks since her own aunt could not save her own dad. In other words, Travers created for herself a savior who would make all things right that she could not…
I know, that’s a little heavy for Monday Morning Momentum, isn’t it?
Not for the Christian. For those who are in Christ, we understand God as the loving father far better than Travers’ faulty dad. Our Sovereign Father doesn’t have an alcohol problem or a bad temper at work, and He appreciates whimsy far more than even Colin Firth can revel in. Because He loves us now, and Israel long before us, He gave the command to worship no rival gods. The second commandment warns us not to even dream up our own physical representation of Him, because such things always fall short, and will consequently leave us only temporarily fulfilled and unsaved from our greatest need. The Disney story shows Travers reaching a final, cathartic salvation when she sees her father figure, Mr. Banks, alive and well and frolicking with his children – eventually flying kites they repaired with money her own father would have made her invest.
Who Made Your God?
Though she may have experienced temporal justice, without a true Savior, she’d never truly know the good of a perfect and loving Heavenly Father.
Do not act like the other nations…Their ways are futile and foolish.
They cut down a tree, and a craftsman carves an idol.
They decorate it with gold and silver
and then fasten it securely with hammer and nails
so it won’t fall over… such gods,
for they can neither harm you nor do you any good. (Jer. 10:2-3,5)
If Travers spent much of her adult life writing, forming a savior decorated with earthly wisdom, silvery songs, and fancy on pages her typewriter hit like hammer and nails, she’d have created a god that could only save her from the wrongs of her childhood. Easy mistake: even the disciples often mistook Jesus as one who would merely save them from the oppression of Rome and earthly princes. They would scatter at His death because they missed the fact that He died to save them, save Travers, save all of us, from something far greater – a future eternity separated from God. Ironic that Mary Poppins would be so famous for quoting that “some people cannot see past the tip of their own nose…” Her man-made idol’s power went only so far.
The Good News:
In Christ, you have a Savior – capital “s” – who does not promise you mere temporal justice. Things done to you or not done for you in childhood may not be reconciled this side of heaven. But, one day, He will wipe away every tear from our eyes and we will reign with Him in glory. Wrong will be made right. The wicked will be cast off. And, those who are cleansed by the atoning work of Christ will not gloat over this, rather rest in the peace and joy that only a Savior created by God can promise.
So, Lemme Askya
Is there anything – a situation, a relationship, a deal, an ideal – that you’ve created in your life to fix what didn’t happen or didn’t happen as well as you wished in childhood? Any temporal problem you’re striving and striving to save yourself from while God is calling you to set your eyes on the greater problem of eternal salvation? Do as Moses did – crush the idol to powder and feed it to the Israelites… Okay, maybe not the second part. But, repentance for this is simple – “Lord, I’ve bowed down to a god that can scarcely save me from my own past. I want a God who can save me from my future.”
We have this really great, point-and-shoot camera that I got for Christmas a few years ago. Some of you may have already tuned out, because you believe “great, point-and-shoot camera” is an oxymoron. I understand. Work with me here. It’s taken hundreds of photos of our four kids, especially Presleigh (3) and the twins (20 mos). But, lately, the oxymorons are right. It’s not that great. It’s taken its share of hard knocks and now 9 out of 10 shots it takes come out just sliiiiightly… blurry. It leans toward blurry.
Question: which way do you lean?
I have this problem – an idolatry problem, really – that the Holy Spirit (often as channeled through my “thank-God-for-your-prophetic-discernment” wife) is working on abolishing from my life. The idol I’ve often come to worship is progress. If you’ve seen our one man show “That Day”, you can relate to a guy who looks back on his life and realizes if time were a bucket of paint, his wife and kids would be really pale and his job, wellllll painted.
I lean toward progress. Today, I’m grateful for that leaning, as I read the opening line of Proverbs, chapter 12. “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.” Some translate the word “ba’ar” as “stupid”, others as “brutish”. Hey, I’m not sure which one is worse, but I don’t want to be either. How about you?
“reproof: rebuke, correction,
I’m grateful that I lean toward progress, because there’s something about me that doesn’t want to be stupid. Really, there’s something about me that wants to lean toward improvement and constant innovation. Can you relate? The hard part about this is here: “reproof” is defined as “rebuke, correction, punishment, chastisement” – none of which is a very comfortable, fluffy, cuddly word, either. I’d rather lean out and away from punishment or chastisement, if I had my way in the natural. But, I’m more comfortable with those prickly words than I am with “stupid/brutish”.
A few months ago, we went through some of the greatest trials we’ve ever experienced as believers in Christ, as a ministry, as a family. As we walked through it, Cristine remarked how grateful she was for the presence of one particular guy in my life who prayed with us through it. He reminded me of the first lines of the book of James and summarized the “consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials” part as follows:
“Trials are necessary.”
Often, leaning in to one thing means leaning out of another, by necessity or even default. However, when it comes to trials, leaning into trial seems the most honest way of leaning into Christ. The questions that remains are – are we willing to pay the price to “be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing”? Are we willing to love discipline in order to obtain the knowledge wrapped in its precious core? Are we willing to love reproof in order to grow beyond stupid? What are some of the possible future benefits of this trial (if not at a minimum, heavenly rewards for perseverance), that make the current discomfort of the trial worthwhile?
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight. (Prov. 3.5)”
“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And, let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may become perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (Jas. 1.2-4 NASB)”
PRAY: “Lord, grow my appetite for discipline and reproof so that I may become perfect and complete, lacking nothing. Help me to lean into You and appreciate You in the midst of pain, discomfort, and/or disease.”
When I’m consistent with “quiet time”, I’m not very consistent with which devotionals I read. I have a couple in hard copy and then a few others that come via email to my “@newsletters” folder in Outlook. Other times, I just skip back and forth between Psalms, Proverbs, Prophets, and the New Testament. When you talk to people for a living, you notice a handful of people who do the same thing every day, consistently. These guys are the low-spiritual-fat-percentage/chiseled character guys with 18-inch spiritual biceps that we all often idolize. Oops, did I say the “i” word? The i word often leads to the “c” word – comparison.
Today, as I’m reading through Neil Anderson’s final devotional for February, his questions jumped off the page. The scripture selection was from Colossians 2.6-7:
As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith
I have a tendency to notice the “who” part of passages as I’m reading them and this morning, I thought “How often do I muff up the “so walk in Him” part? How often do I compare my self to Matt or Jeff or Jim when I should be comparing myself to “who I am in Him?” Doesn’t the passage say “so walk in Jim?” Nope. The comparison game can get messy when we’re not playing by God’s rules – when it comes to man, “comparison is the enemy of contentment”.
Anderson goes on this morning to ask the following litmus test questions about our faith (and, as he’s famous for doing, our identity):
I would be more successful if . . .
I would be more significant if . . .
I would be more fulfilled if . . .
I would be more satisfied if . . .
I would be happier if . . .
I would have more fun if . . .
I would be more secure if . . .
I would have more peace if . . .
The completion of these statements give us a great picture of the completion of the work of Christ in our lives. See – Ephesians 4.12-16.The biggest troubles we get ourselves into can be traced back to a lie that we once bought, which can easily be detected by holding it up to the plumb-line of God’s truth: Would you be more successful if circumstances changed or if you stayed out of God’s way and let Him work through and lead you? Would you be more significant if you made your mark on a situation or if you trusted in who God has gifted you to be and ran on the steam of His grace instead of your own effort? Would you be more secure if you had $25K in the bank or if you were breaking even every week, but clinging to Christ for every dime?
The worst form of idolatry is self-worship – my agenda, my plan, my energy, my competence. The greatest gains have been made in my life when I stepped aside and got God out of the co-pilot seat so He could fly the plane. Conversely, the biggest trouble and darkest times I’ve experienced in business, ministry, marriage, etc., have been the places where I “leaned on my own understanding” and trusted in my ability to walk, talk, work, or manipulate my way out of a jam. Grace is God’s way of empowering us to do His work. Misformed and misunderstood identity in Christ is the surest path to lost confidence in God’s sovereignty and diminishing Christ’s finished work on the cross.
If only we all would walk in that. If only we would encourage each other in that (like, discipleship). If only we would reassure each other there is no condemnation, God’s grace is big enough (though not to be abused), and that His mercies are new every morning. If only we would all slow down the hustle, quiet down the noise, and listen to the Holy Spirit’s lead – what would a lost and dying world think of our God if we all grew up into maturity in the faith, attaining to the full measure of Christ?
in it with you,