This is what I found on my chair when I sat down for lunch on Sunday.
Apparently this fell off of some plumbing part Andy purchased, and landed right where I'd find it, to remind me of this reality: you can't beat the system.
Because I'd love to beat the system. I really would.
And I don't think I'm the only one.
In Matthew 18, the disciples of Jesus put it to him like this: "Who's going to be the greatest in your kingdom?" (Matthew 18:1)
They've just been paying taxes at the end of chapter 17, so I guess they're sick of being at the bottom of the heap.
"Tell us, Jesus, how do we beat the system? Where's the shortcut to the front of the line?"
And Jesus, like Jesus does, gives them a strange and mysterious answer.
He places a child in front of them and says, "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3)
In other words, like usual my disciple-dudes, you're asking the wrong question.
Here's the deal: the system won't ever get you anywhere you really want to be.
Get out of the system altogether, or you'll find yourself stuck in the endless, exhausting, pointless spin cycle of least-or-greatest, always trying to claw your way to the top.
(Steven Karpman calls it the victim-rescuer-persecutor drama triangle. Here's a quick intro.)
Want to be really happy, really okay, really full of peace and joy?
You've got to change your whole paradigm on power, and become like a child.
I was thinking about all that before church on Sunday morning, how becoming like a child does not sound like a good answer.
We've all been kids before.
And for some of us, it wasn't especially a great experience because we weren't heard or respected or treated with dignity. Some of us were abused and told to just get over it.
And you want us to do that again, Jesus? Really?
Everybody else is using religion for power, and you're telling us that being powerless is a good idea?
Wouldn't it be better to point out the injustice inherent in the system and fix it, once and for all?
Wouldn't it be better to take down all the hypocrites and punish them the way they deserve?
Wouldn't it be better to do pretty much anything, besides become like a child?
And then I went to church, and our pastor talked about the baptism of Jesus.
That part where the heavens open and the Holy Spirit comes down like a dove and the voice from heaven says,
"This is my Beloved Son."
And suddenly, with those words, becoming like a child makes sense.
Because it's not about being becoming powerless.
It's about becoming Beloved.
Of course it is. Of course.
Because this story we're in? It's a love story.
This is the deep magic. This is the paradigm shift.
It's not a power story.
It's a love story.
And all the power in the world, all the places at all the fronts of all the lines, will never, ever give us what Love offers us: belovedness.
The green grass, the cool water.
Peace that passes understanding.
Rest for our souls.
Which is, in the end, even when we don't know it, really what we need, really really really.
We can't beat the system.
But we can step out of the system and walk away home, any good time at all.
Become like a child.