So, I don’t know all that was involved. But here is what I do know. The movie Mary Poppins which might have simply been some kind of fun adventure, the placing of the book on the screen by Disney, God used in my life. That’s what I know.
I cannot tell you HOW that is possible. But it falls under the category for me that nothing is wasted in God’s economy; that God uses everything for the good of those called according to His purpose. The idea that God can and does use EVERYTHING to speak. So even a movie, made perhaps to make money, or for whatever other reasons, could be timed and used for the purpose of taking a little boy suffering sexual and emotional abuse and begin to work into him a call into ministry in the local church.
I mean God has to be pretty large to do this.
It was not until 1987 when in a prayer meeting at a church in Louisiana that a pastor in that friend’s prayer group prayed over me and said, He heard the Lord saying that my call began when I was 5 years old. That shocked me since I thought my call had begun when I was 23.
That day, hearing that pastor say this, I couldn’t remember what had happened when I was five, at all. My early childhood was just a blank.
There were virtually no concrete memories of much of anything. I remembered serving my mom breakfast in bed at 4, but that was mostly because of how many times that event had been retold. Really — scrambled eggs, toast, coffee, juice, and fruit. But that was about it.
Then I remembered going backpacking with my family as an 8-year-old before my sister left for college that year. But nothing else. Now I know that such a lapse of memory is a red flag that trauma had been experienced. But no one knew nor talked about that back then. For more description of what had begun five months before the release of Mary Poppins check out #metoo.
Here’s what I know: Jesus met me in that theater. When I went back to the memory, He showed me that I was sitting on His lap in the theater. My mom had taken me and my then good friend Bruce to the movies — my first ever movie. I don’t know what prompted the trip for my mom, we never spent money like that. She complained afterward about the crick in her neck from staring nearly straight up at the screen. We had gotten the last three seats in the place, which placed us in the very front row.
For me, I was sitting on Jesus’ lap. And he whispered into my ear that there were safe adults, adults with love and beauty, and songs and healing. What I saw in that movie was hope for me and other kids who are being hurt and yelled at.
“You child will bring hope and joy to this world and lead many to discover just how big and good I am.”
I encountered a call to be a person who would protect and rescue, who would guide and bring healing to others. It was there with Jesus that any animosity I might have held toward church leaders or the church was washed from me and what remained was Jesus — the hope of any child, any adult.
That day that little boy found hope and the real Person of Jesus who was bigger and better than anyone else. And that day began my call out of hurt and abuse and into the ministry in which I find myself — a place of care, delight in loving and protecting kids and helping everyone meet this guy Jesus who is incredible.
But what remains of the movie is incredible. I cannot watch Mary Poppins without crying. Seriously. Looking in from an adult perspective this does not make any sense. Who cries watching Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke? I do. This past year, 54 years after I’d first seen the movie, I was watching it with my grandson, 3, who was seated on my lap as we watched, his head just below mine. And the picture returned of Jesus with me sitting as Theo was sitting then. Tears came.
In December my wife, Karen, and I went to see Mary Poppins Returns on opening day, and as the music started which incorporates strains of the original movie, I started to cry and the tears flowed throughout as this story continued about adults who have forgotten to be kids, and who have dismissed childhood adventures as if they had never happened. Being childlike is really important to Jesus!
Now others view it and come away without such sentiment.
A friend said, “I didn’t like the music at all!” I was shocked. How could anyone say that? I realized that from my kid-perspective within, that was anathema! But, no fear, I didn’t slug her! Aren’t you proud of me? I’ll give her credit that she did say she cried when Dick Van Dyke danced! Okay, then.
I found the new story marvelous, a story of hope and redemption, as was the first, with great music, acting and hope and joy throughout. That’s what Mary Poppins has always offered. Of course, I’m biased.
I don’t mean to trivialize the hurts and hopeless conditions of many around us, nor of events in this world, but do mean to say that hope and life and Jesus still are realities. He can work through things as simple as Mary Poppins so is therefore able to use anything, even and especially you and me as we live our lives.
Much like Mary Poppins brought magic into the lives of the Banks’ family, so we with Jesus bring such life and hope into the lives of those around us and as we do so, His embrace works wonders.
Yesterday, talking with a guy who had been without housing since getting out of prison some months ago, I was struck by the light that shone from him. He had met Jesus and Jesus was making a huge impact upon him. Indeed, after we had chatted a few minutes, he grabbed my shoulder and said, “Man, I just have to pray,” and started praying “Jesus…” It was a powerful prayer. Then, as I was reaching out to other folks without housing later that same day, I met up with this guy again. Here he was virtually houseless himself but was taking his time to share his faith in Jesus with some youth hanging out around that transit center. It was beautiful. That’s the hope of the gospel, and I first encountered that gospel in a movie.
That’s Jesus. Thanks for listening.