In my latest post titled “Favorite Lewis Quote #4 – God’s Megaphone”, I used a fictional dialogue between a Dad and his son, along with the metaphor of “tickling“, as a way of understanding or categorizing suffering in the life of a believer. I would like to use this post to provide a few “keys” to understanding that dialogue.
1 – Our Suffering compared to Christ’s – In some ways it may be a little dangerous to use the metaphor of “tickling” to represent suffering, because some may see it as a way of trivializing or making light of the pain of others. Please do not misunderstand. I do not in any way intend to communicate suffering as a triviality. There are people in the world who are going through a tremendous amount of agony and affliction. However, in comparison to the suffering of Christ, our suffering, no matter how monumental, is a mere tickle. Ultimately, our suffering should be compared to Christ’s only in as much as a flash-light should be compared to the sun.
2 – Hands: A different language, an intimate language – The very same hands that cause suffering or “tickling” are also the hands that are used to communicate. In the dialogue, a little boy describes a girl in his class, Jenny, who is deaf and cannot hear words. In fact, she is a student in an entirely deaf class. So, in order to communicate, Jenny and her class have learned to “hear” words spoken by hands. The little girl has been taught a new language – sign language. But, the little boy says that, in order to “hear” this language, you have to stay close. You cannot understand sign language if you are too far away or if you are not paying attention. In like fashion, when Jesus speaks, he uses a different language than the world. His words are counter-intuitive to ours. So we must learn his language. The point here is that God’s Word cannot be understood without Jesus to teach it to us and show us what it means. Christ teaches us this language in close proximity to himself, so we cannot learn it unless we draw near; and we must stay near to him in order to continue to understand.
3 – The Trust/Bond of tickling and suffering – “Tickling” is defined by many child psychologists as an integral bonding activity between parents and children. I recall that when my children were small, they loved to be tickled by me. They could never get enough. “Try and tickle me Papa” was their constant challenge. They would purposely do all that they could to bate me into becoming “the tickle monster.” Besides being a lot fun, psychologists say that these tickling games establish the pleasure associated with being rightfully touched by a parent and it works to develop a trust-bond between parent and child. It is vital that this trust bond be imprinted upon the child so that when a parent must interact with him in an unpleasant way, as in treating a painful injury or preventing harm or danger, the trust bond will be maintained. In the dialogue, the little boy wants to know how his father would “keep a child safe from running out into traffic?” The Dad’s answer is that, prior to that moment, he would tickle that little boy with his hands, so that later on, when the moment arises, the child will be so closely bonded with those hands that he will be constantly looking at them, he will innately trust them, and understand the message that they are sending.
4 – Red Gloves, Red Hands, and Suffering as God’s Megaphone – In the dialogue, when Jenny’s class lets out after school, the deaf children go outside together to be picked up by parents and buses. The son says that this can be a dangerous time – kids could possibly be hit by a car. To help with this, Jenny’s teacher wears “red” gloves as a way of commanding attention. The symbol here is obvious – Jesus’ hands are “red” with blood. And with these “red hands” Christ tickles us – he invites us to share in his sufferings. Jesus’ hands of suffering, his suffering and ours, are the megaphone that wakes up an apathetic world. Jesus speaks to us clearly and loudly with these red hands. In the Bible, Jesus shows these hands to Thomas. They are hands that healed. They are hands that bled. His hands are hands that we can trust. Hands we need to see. They are intimate hands. I once heard a sermon by E.V. Hill that said, “Christian maturity is learning to trust the Lord’s heart, when you cannot trace his hand.” Sometimes God’s hands do things and ordain things that I do not understand, yet, if I have bonded to his hands and understood them, if his hands have loved me, and taught me, and tickled me, then I will continue to trust those hands when they do something that cause my suffering.
If you didn’t quite get it the first time, with these things in mind, please go back and browse through the post again. You can find it by clicking HERE. I welcome any questions you might have!
By the way, it looks as though I may have two kidney stones, not just one. I feel like I am very close to passing one of them. It’s been working on me since four o’clock this morning.