When my son, Elvis, was three years old, his preschool put on their annual holiday program. Fifty three- and four-year-olds paraded out single file from their classrooms to stand on risers in the gymnasium facing hundreds of strangers, searching the audience for the familiar faces of parents and grandparents. Some waved and grinned. Some fidgeted in their Christmas best. Others waited obediently for their teacher to direct them into silence.
My son stood in the first row and howled, his face long and gaunt, looking eerily similar to the “scream” mask, or the haunted face of the man in Edvard Munch’s 1893 painting, “The Scream.”
To his credit, Elvis didn’t leave the stage. While everyone else sang their cute little songs, my boy continued to howl, open mouthed and grim, unable to locate a friendly face and frozen in place.
It was a grueling five-minute performance, and then it ended, finally. I treasured up Elvis’ first stage “performance” in my heart.
Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile
Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile is a whimsical musical based on the book series by Bernard Waber. Lyle the Crocodile can’t speak, but he sure can sing… just not in front of an audience. Like my son, Lyle suffers from extreme stage fright. No matter how many times he tries, he just can’t perform before a crowd. When his inability to sing sends his magician partner out on the road to make money, Lyle stays in the magician’s attic, alone, until one day, a new family moves in. Together, Lyle and the new family change each other’s lives.
Directed by Will Speck and Josh Gordon, with the voice talent of Shawn Mendes as Lyle and original songs from the composers of The Greatest Showman, this fun and heartwarming New York adventure will delight young and old. I worried a little that it might seem too cutesy for my 11-year-old son, Henry, but he and his pals that joined us all said the film was great. If it can pass the junior high boys’ test, then it must be good.
Finding the Love: Faithifying Your Viewing
The familiar “love” passage in the New Testament of the Bible is often read at weddings, but Paul was talking about a far bigger love than just that between husband and wife.
Paul just finished talking to the folks in the Corinthian church about spiritual gifts and talents. The whole community seemed to be relishing in their rock stars, who had recently acquired a shiny, new Holy Spirit.
Paul spends all of 1 Corinthians 12 explaining the paradoxical unity and diversity within the community of believers. “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them,” Paul writes (1 Cor. 12:4 NIV). He describes the unity of believers through the metaphor of the body, which is unified but has its unique parts and purposes within the body. Together, that body forms “the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Cor. 12:27 NIV).
The spiritual gifts are powerful and desirable, writes Paul, “And yet I will show you the most excellent way” (1 Cor. 12:31 NIV).
Spoiler alert! The most excellent way is the way of love. The magician in the movie misses this truth, and so does the cranky downstairs neighbor. The magician values Lyle’s gift of song and dance above Lyle himself, just as he is. Paul says, “If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate” (1 Cor. 13:1 MSG).
Our value as image bearers of God is not in our doing, but in our being.
All of our performances, productivity, planning, and power will one day pass away, but love never dies. It withstands the test of time.
Maybe you’ve heard the love passage so many times it has lost its resonance. The Message translation shakes up those familiar words:
“So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.”1 Corinthians 13:3-7 MSG
As we seek to live our lives as followers of Christ, it is this posture we’re supposed to take in all things. After all, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:8 NIV). Love is so central to our life as believers that Jesus led the two greatest commandments with love from the start: “He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:27 NIV).
That love is meant to extend to everyone and everything. Even to crocodiles, singing or otherwise.
Love is a powerful force. With love as the foundation, things we thought we could never do become possible. They become possible because love ensures we are held and we have value, beyond our performance, even if we fail. “With God, all things are possible,” Jesus says (Matthew 19:26 NIV), and if God is love, then with love, all things are possible.
Every time I watch my son, Elvis, on stage now, as a 15 year old, I remember that little boy howling in the front row of that gymnasium. My heart holds out for the moment he might freeze, even though he’s now performed main roles in a musical and a play without fear. My hope, above all else, is that he knows this foundation of love, that whether he sings or forgets his lines or has the perfect performance, what matters more than anything is that he is loved.