The Knucklehead Posse

There is nothing that is more inclined to do the stupidest of things than a 10 year old boy.    This was without doubt the case with me.   As a boy, I was my biggest enemy.   I designed harebrained inventions and mad capped escapades that always had me battered and bruised by the end of the day.     The stupidity of some of these ideas is staggering when I look back at them.

There are incidents that leave me shaking my head.  I remember my first invention; what I called an electric glove warmer.   The idea was pure genius. I cut the wire from a radio, frayed the end to raw wires, and wove them into my mittens.    I had a friend turn the switch and for the next 8 hours I was sure I was never going to feel my arms again.

Another time, I thought it was cool to string a wire between two trees and tie to it my X-Wing fighter toy.    After pretending it flew through the vacant lot, a buddy had the bright idea that we should fill it with Gas and fireworks and pretend that the rebel allegiance had shot it down.    Basically we made a giant terrorist pipe bomb on a string that both set the vacant lot on fire and us sure we were going to prison.

During a conversation with a friend this week, we found ourselves talking about faith and how so many of us just seem to stumble aimlessly for so long.   As we talked I remembered a story that seems to express the way that people treat faith and their faith journey.

As was the case with all the stories of the near misses of my childhood, it began with me and knuckleheaded friends.   As far as that group of misfits was concerned, I was the Knucklehead king.   For some reason, among these meatheads I had an almost god-like power of persuasion.   I could get buy in for all my farfetched ideas by convincing them we would be either rich, heroes, or famous.   Some of my best memories as a child were spent contemplating just what silly adventure would be had next.

One day we were doing just that in the playground at the school close my house.   It was a lazy Saturday afternoon and there were four or five of us, sitting on the monkey bars contemplating our future.    In that particular playground there were two sets of monkey bars perhaps six feet apart, and they were the site of the inner sanctum of the knucklehead posse. From beneath, beside, on top of, and swinging from the rungs, all of our greatest escapades were conceived.

That afternoon, we sat on those monkey bars, and no idea came.  

We had a writer’s block of sort and as the day progressed we let our minds wander.   Truth be told, there is nothing more dangerous than a wandering mind of a ten year old.    After an extended period of silence a thought slipped into my noggin.   After tossing it about for a few minutes, the idea finally migrated from my mind to my mouth.

I pointed to the other set of monkey bars and I asked out loud; “Do you think we could jump from this set of monkey bars and land on the other?” It was a deeply profound question and it was the afternoon’s discussion.   We theorized and we debated.  We went back and forth.

 Eventually we had an idea.   If you stood in the middle of the monkey bars, squatted down deep, and snapped off with an exploding jump, we believed you could span the gap and safely land on the center of the other monkey bars.   Eventually, we convinced ourselves that it would work.

As time went buy we decided we wanted to give it a go.   That’s when good, old Peter McKeon game front and center.     Pete was, well… dumb as a doorknob.   The boy was a few fries short of a happy meal, and with enough time we could convince him to do anything.    It was Pete that was chosen to make the leap.

So after a few minutes of preparation, the time arrived.   Pete stood as tall and as straight as a ten year old could manage.    Slowly he took the crouch.    He stared at those monkey bars and his attention was intense.    With a countdown from the knucklehead tribe reaching zero, he sprang forward.   As he did, time slipped into slow motion.

Pete was travelling through the air.   He was like a bird in flight.   He was going to make it.   It was going to work.

Sadly, but not surprisingly, Pete did not make the monkey bars.   He overshot the bar and arrived at a bad angle.   Instead of grasping the bar, and spinning with gymnastic precision, his forehead connected with bar, and he went down hard.    He was out cold on the ground.   He had knocked himself out, but of course we all thought he was dead.

In a flash we jumped off the bars and rushed to his side.   Amidst the wailing and the gnashing of the teeth we pleaded with God.   “Please save Pete!” we cried.   “Why were we so careless?   Why didn’t we see this coming?” we wailed.  The guilt was immediate and awesome. After a few moments, when we started to see Pete start to move a bit, the grief turned to relief.   It was a divine intervention.   It was the monkey bar miracle.

After he came too, with a unicorn sized horn smack dab in the middle of his forehead, we congratulated him on his bravery.   We patted his back.   We wiped the sweat from our brows.   We headed back to the safety and calmness of our monkey bar perch.    In an hour, the event was forgotten as we lazily lounged on those bars…

In that lazy summer slumber, there on those monkey bars, another idea popped into my head.    After a few minutes of tossing it about, it migrated from my brain to my mouth; “What if Pete took another angle, and jumped from here”

We were still debating when it came time to head home for dinner.
Sadly, those boys on the bars are not too far off from so many who struggle to find their spiritual way.   They embrace all the fad thinking on their search.  If it’s on Oprah they believe it.   Some bestselling book has all the answers.   They believe that just simply embracing the next best thing, it will work this time.    In reality, many are just like Pete; jumping from one thing to the next and knocking themselves out along the way.   After they come too, they just return to that very same spot and try the same move from a different angle.    They never realize it isn’t working.

I wish that I could tell you all I have all the answers, but I don’t.  

I don’t have the answers, but there are things that I do know unquestionably.    I know that the greatest tool that we have on figuring it all out is our place in the community of journeyers.  

I hear many say that I find God at home, on the mountain, while running, etc.  I absolutely believe those moments to be authentic encounters of God, because I have them too.   God will provide truth, insight, peace, or shalom (or whatever you want to call it) to the person who stands alone or apart from the church.   The God I worship is big enough – and loves each of us enough – to do just that.

Yet, instead of condemning that choice, I believe and argue that those pathways to that shalom are recognized easier and quicker when discovered within the framework of those called apart.   Sometimes it’s easier to find those places you are frantically searching for when you have people to help you along the way.   

Perhaps part of the problem facing the church today is that the journey itself is not recognized and celebrated enough.    Too many wander into our doors and expect a firmly laid out set of rules to follow and are disappointed when instead we celebrate our lack of a full understanding.    It’s unsettling and many walk out.  Many turn to Oprah, to the bestseller, or the church for nice packaged answers.

So in the recognition that the reality, there are many churches, of which I include Asbury among the list, that  build their message and mission so that the Gospel call to seek and to question is never hidden behind the overconfident promotion of doctrine or tradition.       At Asbury we will debate, we will challenge, we will question, and most importantly we will remember.   We will remember to reinforce, to remind, and to recognize that there is a community that stands with you, and at times for you, with the final and full hope that we all find our destination quicker as a result.

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