By Michael Acker
My mom used to dress me in velour shirts.
You know the kind—when you rub up, it makes the shirt look dark. Then you rub the fuzzy shirt down and it’s like you are wearing a different shirt. Two rubs, two shirts, both out of style. The shirt had the Charlie Brown stripe going across it and the wannabe polo shirt collar.
Sometimes this velour shirt would make its way to Sunday School. I loved Sunday School; lots of nice people and lots of nice food. I like people and I like food so it was a great combo.
After we greeted all the nice people at the nice big front door, I would get to walk over to my nice classroom with my nice teacher and have some cookies. Pretty nice deal. We would snack on some sugar, sing some songs and eventually settle in for the stories. Flannel graph stories.
Cookie in one hand, milk in the other we would gather around the teacher and listen. I’m sure we were absolute angels, and the setting probably felt a bit like “little house on the prairie.”
The teacher would then reach into her vast collection of little flannel people and would lovingly arrange them on the cloth background. The story of Jesus would come alive, one flannel person/object at a time.
If you were lucky, you’d be called on to come up and be the Jesus-moving-kid. Quite the honor. In your hand you held Jesus (flannel-style) and you directed his destiny. Would he heal the leper? Would he cure the sick? Would he love the prostitute? Would he teach on the mount?
What would Jesus do in your hands?
Sometimes Jesus would even kick out the money changers! Or called the other Rabbis bad names, making fun of them! That was nice-tough-love Jesus. You just knew he was still nice, because he always had that smile on his face.
It was flannel graph Jesus.
I find it funny that Jesus looked a little like my teacher.
My teacher had long, straight black hair. I could see my teacher in Jesus and I could see flannel graph Jesus in my teacher. Amazing. They both smiled. They both had long wavy hair. They both were white. They both wore dresses. They both had rosy cheeks. Jesus was pretty, he was nice and he was flannel.
I knew I loved Jesus.
And I knew Jesus loved me. I knew this because Dad and Mom told me so. And I knew that Jesus loved me, because the Bible told me so. And I knew that Jesus loved me because teacher loved me and Jesus looked like teacher.
Jesus loved me.
Growing up, I had seen the nice picture of Jesus smiling outside the door to our heart saying, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”
Then it happened … someone asked if I wanted Jesus to live in my heart. Of course! Of course I want Jesus to live in my heart! I didn’t know what it meant, but it sounded like it should happen. Maybe little flannel Jesus will stick to my rub on/rub off velour shirt. Then I can have nice little cute little Jesus with me all the time …
I think that a lot of people in the church, outside the church, Christians, non-christians, people who read the Bible, people who use the Bible as a paperweight, people who believe in Jesus and people who don’t believe in Jesus…
… I think that a lot of people have velour lives. Our love for Jesus can show up—or disappear. We have a little Jesus that we carry with us at all times…
This has been a problem in my life. My “Jesus” has been too small. I wonder if your “Jesus” is too small. I wonder what your “Jesus” would do if you got the carp kicked out of you. I wonder what your “Jesus” would do if your best friend turned on porn when you were eleven years old. Would your “Jesus”’ be okay with you getting drunk your first night in Spain and waking up with someone you never knew and never will know?
Would Jesus be able to get a hold of your life and cause you to give it away? Would Jesus be able to heal you of pain that you never knew you had? Would Jesus be able to give you a reason to live beyond yourself? Would Jesus be worth committing to?
Or is your—and my—Jesus too small?