My youngest daughter loves to play dress up. Over the course of her short life she has obtained several Disney princess costumes that she likes to wear while watching their corresponding movies. The other day I was at Toys R Us shopping for her birthday present. I was looking for a play dress that she might like to add to her collection, but couldn’t find anything she didn’t already have. Instead, I bought her an authentic Brave Bow and Arrow set. Now she has just about everything she needs to be just like Merida. Dress, red frizzy wig, and her very own bow and arrow. Next she will want a horse.
I’m really just a big kid myself, and even though we have two daughters, I couldn’t resist walking through the rest of the store and browsing the legos and other more male targeted toys. I was somewhat surprised to find a section dedicated to dress up for boys. Granted the costumes where much different. Instead of princess dresses there were ninja costumes, soldiers, police officers and the like.
I’m not sure why I was surprised. I can remember when I was a little kid wanting to get dressed up like the movies I was watching. If it was a western, I would run to my room and look for my cowboy boots and toy six shooter. Sometimes missing half the movie until I could find all the appropriate props. It wasn’t enough to just watch the movie. I wanted to be a part of it, I wanted to feel like the story involved me somehow.
This isn’t just something children do. Adults do it too. If you have ever been to a midnight premiere of Lord of the Rings, Batman, Star Trek, Star Wars (or similarly nerdy movies), you will see countless full grown adults in full costume waiting to immerse themselves in their favorite story.
Depending on the story this can have positive or negative effects. Not that long ago a young man was arrested “on several counts of reckless driving and hit and run accidents—after he ran into a wall with a stolen car and was arrested by police.” When asked why he did it, he said he wanted to know what it was like to play Grand Theft Auto for real. Tim Elmore commented on the whole situation saying:
“For decades now, social scientists have questioned: does life imitate TV or does TV imitate life? The truth is, both happen. And we must acknowledge that input like violence and sexual exploits on a screen may lead to real life exploits if we don’t manage them.” (Tim Elmore in Virtual Becomes Reality.)
This doesn’t just happen with TV, it happens with any story we immerse ourselves in. The more we hear and surround ourselves with the story, the more the story begins to shape our lives. It is for this very reason that God commands immersion in his narrative. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (also known as the Shema) is generally considered the most important Jewish prayer. This is because the act of the Shema is life shaping. Look at what is commanded in Deuteronomy 6:4-9.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 NIV)
It is because story is so powerfully life shaping that God commands immersion in His story. It is because story is so powerfully life shaping that God chose to revel Himself in story to begin with. The amazing thing about God’s story is we don’t just read it, hear it, recite it or preach it. We enter into it. We become a part of it. We reenact and relive it. It is a story about us, just as much as it is a story about Israel, the disciples, Jesus and God.
But how does this happen? How do we enter into the story of God to be shaped and transformed by it? God’s story is more than just following commands. And transformation doesn’t happen through unmitigated force of will. No, God’s story transforms us when you and I enter into it through supernatural reenactment. But before we can adequately discuss this reenactment, we need to know what it is that we are reenacting.
That is, we need to know the story before we can begin to dress the part.
Did you like this post? Consider signing up for new posts via email:
Photo Credit: Michael Vincent Manalo