May 29, 2012

It's in the Hat

Last week, my oldest son turned nine (nine!). To celebrate, he chose to take a few friends to Chuck E. Cheese. Mind you, a trip to Chuck E. Cheese meant a trip to Richmond (an hour away) in the car with six boys, seven if you include my husband, the biggest kid of all. Squeezed between my two youngest in the back row of the car, I heard every knock-knock joke and funny boy-sound known to man.

Will chose Chuck E. Cheese for his birthday because he wanted to play games, eat cardboard pizza, and earn prizes, but his primary goal was a chance at the Ticketblaster. The Ticketblaster, in case you don't already know, is an enclosed tube that blasts air (and tickets) for 30 seconds. Birthday kids get in the tube and, during the allotted time, grab as many tickets as they can. To up the ante, the birthday attendant adds several tickets to the tube, some worth 50 or 100 points and one ticket worth a whopping 1000 points.
On his birthday, as he geared up with goggles and an inflatable birthday crown, his birthday entourage gathered around him to talk strategy. All the kids agreed that he should tuck in his shirt and use one hand to stuff tickets inside. Will nervously stepped into the tube, eyed the 1000 point ticket, and braced for the blast of air.

It came on suddenly, sending a flurry of tickets swirling around him. Inside, he flailed his arms around, grabbing as many tickets as he could. Outside, one of the kids noticed with great excitement that the 1000 ticket card had wedged itself into the points of Will's birthday crown. At once, the entire group of us stuck our noses to the tube and screamed, "It's in your hat! It's in your hat!" at the top of our lungs. Enclosed in the booth with the blasting air, Will couldn't hear a thing. He continued grabbing at the air, sometimes bending over and threatening the balance of the 1000 point ticket stuck in his hat. Each time, we would point and scream, "It's in your hat! It's in your hat!" By this time, we were all hysterical with excitement for Will, that he had likely caught the elusive ticket and didn't even know it yet.

For some reason, that moment has really stuck with me. As a mom, having heard Will talk about the Ticketblaster for weeks leading up to his birthday, I was so happy for him. Even though it was a 30 second game at Chuck E. Cheese, it was truly a thrilling moment to watch three other little boys cheer for Will and agonize that the 1000 point ticket might suddenly fall out of his crown.

But even more so, the imagery stuck with me. I thought about how often I am the one in the Ticketblaster, hoping to catch the elusive ticket yet possessing it all along.

Take, for example, my inclination toward self-condemnation. Shouldn't I have life or being a pastor's wife or being a mom (or insert any number of things) more figured out by now? Surely, I think, God must grow impatient at how slow I learn and how far I still have to go. But He has clearly said that I am no longer under condemnation (Romans 8:1), and that He is continually completing the good work He began in me (Philippians 1:6).

Or another example: my sin. Why am I still worrying over the future or crushed when someone doesn't like me? Why do I whine and complain, turning blessings into burdens? Shouldn't I have matured past these things by now? But God says that as I confess my sin and abide in Him, He does the pruning and refining. He bears the burden for my growth (Galatians 5:22-23).

I'm still, in some ways, trying to spiff myself up for God. I'm flailing around, grasping for growth or reassurance that God loves me. Yet all along, it's already there, it's already happening. It's in the proverbial hat!

What I mean when I say this is that I'm a child of God and, as a child of God, covered by the grace of Jesus Christ, my position in Him never changes. When God looks at me (and you, if you are in Christ), He sees His beloved child, holy and righteous. He loves us, and there is absolutely nothing that can change that or remove us from His love. Do we sin? Yes. Is God grieved by our sin? Yes, but, by His infinite grace, He is transforming us by His Spirit, helping us realize our salvation. In that process, our position as a child of God never changes.

It's in the hat! It's in the hat! I keep telling myself this when I get frustrated with myself or when the enemy speaks subtle lies to me. Because of Jesus, it's in the hat. I can rest easy, leaning on His everlasting grace.

(And in the end, Will did win the 1000 point ticket!)

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Want to know more about your position in Christ? Be sure and read this post: Don't Believe Everything That You Think.