“Daddy, can I wear my Spiderman costume to church?”
It’s Sunday morning and I’m trying to drink my second cup of coffee and procrastinating on getting dressed.
“Go find some clothes so I can get you dressed,” I’d told Keenan. (He’s four years old, and this mission usually has a fifty percent success rate.) Today he came back with his Spiderman suit, the one we picked up at a thrift store for a few dollars last Halloween.
At first, my answer is no. After all, I am a parent and that’s what parents say. It’s the default. But I pause for a moment, and instead of saying no I shrug and say, “Ok. Go for it.”
He runs to his room to get dressed, thrilled about attending Sunday School as a superhero. A few minutes later, the two-year-old wanders into our room dragging his own Spiderman suit behind him.
“Daddy, I be Spiderman like my brudder?”
“Sure, Emmett. Why not?”
A few minutes later we’re on the way to church, and the boys are amped up to make a grand entrance as twin Spidermans.
“I can’t wait to show my friends my Spiderman costume!”
“Dey gonn’ say: whoa you Spiderman?”
While they’re thinking about how awesome it will be to show up to church as Spidermans, I’m thinking about why my first impulse was to say no, and why I said yes instead.
Most of us have experienced church as a place where we have to make ourselves good enough for God.
Put on a suit and tie, or at least a clean shirt. Wash your face. Comb your hair. Stop swearing. Stand up straight. Pretend like your family isn’t falling apart from the inside out. Pretend like your faith isn’t falling apart from the inside out too.
Sunday mornings at home become backstage dressing rooms for the Sunday-morning-at-church performance. After all, God wants our best.
My boys will learn soon enough that conformity is often valued above all else. Fall into line. Follow the rules. Do what is expected of you.
Sadly, they’ll encounter religion that reinforces that message in the name of God: This is how you must think, act, dress, talk. This is what God expects of you. This is how you’ll please God. This is how you’ll earn God’s love.
But I want them to know something different. I want them to know that church isn’t a place where they have to conform, fit in, dress up, or quiet down.
I want them to know that their hearts are good and their choices are awesome and their plan to catch the Joker with spiderwebs is a pretty good idea but even if it doesn’t work out that’s okay too.
I want them to know that it’s ok to love what they love and to share that excitement with the world.
Most of all, I want them to know that they are worthy of love just because they exist.
And I want them to know that God doesn’t want their best; God just wants their realest selves. For them to show up the way they are, and know that they are enough. Even if that means pink hair and dirty faces and Spiderman costumes.
The world needs more superheroes like that.
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