When you are a child all sorts of things are possible. Your imagination is unencumbered by the laws of time and space. You can do things that adults can’t – like running around the garden for hours without feeling out of breath, or spinning around until you are dizzy and then flopping onto the floor and watching the world keep spinning (adults seem to need alcohol to help them with that one). And the worlds of fiction and fact are blended wonderfully. Characters in books, comics, TV shows and films are simply companions in the adventure of each day.
When my physical appearance matched my childish nature (as opposed to now when the appearance has grown up) there was one wonderful occasion that illustrates this. I loved reading the Beano. I wanted to join the Dennis the Menace fan club but was not allowed. Dennis the Menace and Minnie the Minx were heroes of mine. It’s not that I was naughty (well not very) because I was vicariously a Menace through them. And I did know that they always got caught and told off…
Our family was preparing to go on holiday. The car was packed, our grandparents had arrived to stay in our house while we were away, and my sister and I had gathered our bits and pieces that were designed to keep us occupied during the journey. We decided that we needed to go and say goodbye to the goldfish in the pond in our garden before we left so my sister and I went off to have a look.
It was a small but deep pond, quite murky and full of pond slime. The fish were good at hiding. My sister bent down to look for the fish and I was stood behind her. In my imagination I think I had just entered the world of Dennis the Menace. In front of me was a prime target – someone bending over. I said to my sister, “I’ll push you in!”
“Don’t you dare!” was her instant reply. I don’t think she thought I would.
But I had now been dared (in my mind). So I did.
And for one brief, wonderful moment I shared the elation of being a Menace. I had pushed my sister into the pond!
And then the green slime monster emerged from the pond – soaked from head to toe and covered in what was at the bottom of the pond. The monster screeched a word that sent shivers down my spine and shocked me back into reality: “MUUUUM!”
Now if I had really been Dennis the Menace I would have made a run for it. I would have got on my go kart and zoomed off down the hill (but we lived at the bottom of a hill) or I would have run off and hidden somewhere in the garden until it had all blown over.
But I didn’t move. I was horrified at the sight of my sister covered in pond gunk. I was rooted to the spot by the realisation that I was in deeeeep trouble (deeper than the pond).
My parents came rushing up to see what had happened and I stood waiting for my punishment…
[punishment happened – this is a family bloggage so I won’t go into details!]
After my sister had been calmed down and hosed down (or at least washed) the remainder of the family went with her back to the pond to count the goldfish and check that she had not swallowed one. She had probably swallowed a lot of pond water and perhaps green slime too, but thankfully all of the fish were still in the pond, probably a bit traumatised by the unexpected visitation by my sister. I was still in disgrace so was in my room in isolation at this moment (perhaps they didn’t trust me as they bent down to check the fish).
I know that I knew that Dennis the Menace and Minnie the Minx never got away with it. I know that I knew that I would be in trouble when I pushed my sister in the pond. I know that I knew that it was wrong. But the inner Menace took over. [Shove]
I think that all of us have to cope with the promptings of the inner Menace. It may not be pushing sisters in fishponds, but we all get those urges to do something we know is wrong, and from time to time we give in, even though we know it is wrong and even though we know the consequences won’t be good.
Even the apostle Paul struggled with this (Romans 7.15ff):
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
21 So I find this law at work: although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Paul wrestled with his inner Menace too. But the good news is that we are not alone in this. God’s Spirit is with us. His is the little voice we sense saying, “Is that such a good idea?” or “You’ll regret that!” or “Don’t, please.” It’s up to us whether or not we listen to it. When we do, rejoice and thank God. When we don’t, ask for forgiveness and the strength not to give in again.
Be blessed, be a blessing