Friday, May 16, 2014

Give God Your Teddy Bear and Get a Bigger One!

I'm in an online group of Christian homeschoolers.  Their posts at times make me wonder if I, myself, can actually be Christian or homeschool... I mean, maybe one or the other, but surely, not both. 

About 50 of them "liked" the following picture:

This drawing (by an unknown source and author) was hailed in the comments as "an excellent visual for our kiddos," "Profound... says it all," "a vocation story in pictures" and as... well, she-who-will-remain-anonymous (because I'll assume she meant this really well) puts it best:
AWW!! Thank you for sharing this. I'm going to share it with my 5-year old. I don't think he needs any help in this department since he tells me that he loves Jesus more than he loves me (yes, my heart swells), but I want to keep reaffirming his beliefs. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!
Yes, "reaffirming his beliefs" that... but wait. No. I will resist commenting on that comment for now, in hopes that God will take the sarcastic comments that I'd currently love to utter and--in return--inspire me with even snarkier things to say, later.

Oh dear, ahem, I-should-be-sorry-but-I'm-tired-and-annoyed: Anyway, when I first saw the pic, I actually thought someone was just making fun of us crazy Christians again. But then, I realized it was--likely--well-intended and promoted by a Christian. I also realized that my dismay was a minority position... not just from the 47 likes, but from the lack of an answer to my objection to this drawing (though it did get "liked" once, so it's me and that gal, yeah!) 

I thought it wisest to spell it out my concerns here on my own personal soap box / blog rather than start a firestorm with well-meaning enthusiasts of the dear Lord's desire for teddy bears:

1. The "Give to Get" implication.  Don't give something to God expecting something better back. He probably gave you what you love in the first place, and also, when we "give" we're not supposed to expect anything back, right?  (Luke 6:35)

So don't give to acquire, and please (please) don't teach your kids to give up what they love so God gives them something even better. Please.  Especially not your five-year-old son.  

Like... here's some five-year-old reasoning using the above illustration: "I will put 25 cents in the poor box, and God will give me $25 dollars back."

NOT that He won't, necessarily.  But it's really, really bad motivation for giving up your favorite stuffed animal. Or giving up anything you love, for that matter.

2. The Completely Hidden Bigger Bear

Yes, God does sometimes require us to give up things that we love. And let me be clear: if Jesus appears to me, gets down on one knee, and asks me for ANYTHING, I promise to give it to Him. 

But when God wants us to give up a job that we love, for instance, in order to be freed up for something more important like, say, having kids... well, first of all, He often does give us a glimpse of "the bigger teddy bear" to keep us motivated.  

Sometimes we give up good things for better things that we perceive God to be calling us to. Not that God hasn't ever asked people to give up good things "blind"... but I think a positive motivation is probably, most often, at least somewhat apparent.

3. "If it's hard, it's holy; if it's difficult, it's good; if it's painful, it's progress" etc etc

Oh, not necessarily.  And that notion is written all over this pic... giving up that teddy bear might be as extreme as God's testing of Abraham, at least to a little kid, c'mon now... Nuff said on that. 

4. "You should give up what you love."

Took me till adulthood to learn that God actually often guides us to His will using the desires of our heart (Psalm 20:4), not by teaching us to always "give up" what we love. 

There's another Psalm that speaks of this too: "Take delight in the Lord and He will give you your heart's desires." Ps. 37:4 

5. "God wants us to give up what we love."

Similar to the above, but emphasis on what "God wants."  Guess what I think about WWJD when this girl said, "But I love it God"?  I think He'd grin and tell her to keep her tiny teddy (I mean really, "unknown artist." Really?!)

6. Using a tiny teddy bear instead of a knife. 

Or a rusty nail.  Or a lit match. This picture TOTALLY works if the child is holding something dangerous, bad, or otherwise unhealthy. Then, Jesus is being a good and loving Parent who knows best even if the child doesn't, not a creepy stranger asking for a kid's favorite toy...


7.  The presence of random blue paint splotches. Look:

What's up with that?  I asked all the 40-odd "likers" on the wall and no one explained it to me... sniff.  And who says "bigger is better"... I mean, we're talking about teddy bears here. I prefer Beanie Babies, myself...

Oh, and the complete lack of proper punctuation... I think I spy an incorrect use of ellipsis (_I_ should know, I do it all the time. Like here... and here...) And yeah, where's the, like, comma? Or a period.  

I'm going to bed... But in the meantime: Please, please don't use that picture to demonstrate to your children our relationship with God.  Instead, how about teaching about trusting God and His love for us with:

"What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, 
will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 
or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?  
If you then . . . know how to give good gifts to your children, 
how much more will your heavenly Father?"
 Luke 11:10-12
(N.B. The ellipsis was used properly in the above quote. But no where else...)


  1. I have always pictured the scenario that I think the artist was trying to portray (or at least the one I think he ought to have portrayed) as this: The child is holding a BROKEN toy. The child may even be asking Jesus to fix it but is still holding firmly on to it. Jesus holds the means to fix that toy & patiently tells the child that he will fix it if only the child will trust him & give him the toy. I find that often God asks us to give things to him not so he can substitute something even better but so that he can make that thing more perfect if only we would stop trying to control it.

  2. I have always wanted to learn the correct way to use ellipses. My messages must drive you absolutely bonkers !

  3. I have to agree with you on the inadvisability of the whole "give to get" message. As you say, it can encourage a pretty selfish motivation. Besides that, it can also lead to discouragement or even despair and doubt ("does God really love me?" "Is religion all a lie?" "Am I going against God's will?") when at some point in life the child "gives" and yet doesn't get what he is expecting from God.

  4. I definitely agree Katie. Well written, as usual! :) You always make me smile with your wit! I was thinking about how during Advent most years, we have the children go through their toys and find a bunch of them to give away to less-fortunate children. We do not tell them that because they are giving away toys, they are going to get bigger and better ones for Christmas. What we are trying to teach our children (besides the obvious generosity and virtue of caring for the poor) is a detachment from earthly possessions.

  5. I'm here from Simcha's and oh, my, I love this. I look forward to checking out more of your blog.

    Glancing at that drawing, I thought it was a joke too. I'm flummoxed every time I come across that whole Jesus-as-gift-giver theme.

  6. My thought on looking at that was that Jesus was asking the kid to give up something he loved for a big toy. That teddy bear isn't "just" a toy; the one Jesus is hiding is, at least to that kid. Nope, I don't like that drawing at all

  7. Better still, let's use the image of a bloody man hanging from a cross. Or an exposed heart with gaping wound, entangled in thorns and seemingly on fire. Let's surround Jesus with smelly bleaping sheep, and depict him as the unwitting victim of forces beyond his control. Let's make it into a movie. We can call it "The Jerk."

  8. I agree with this blogger. I was in a bible study that used this very same analogy only it was a dad asking a daughter to give up a beloved string of fake pearls for a string of real pearls as an act of trust. This and the other just doesn't seem right. I had a family member who kept thinking that if he really loved and enjoyed something that God wanted him to give it up. Mustn't love anything more than God! And of course, if you really love and enjoy something, God wants it so that you prove to him that you love him more. So, this family member gave up everything that he loved...and eventually gave up God and became an agnostic....How could you keep loving or believing that God was good when everytime you enjoyed something, God demanded you to give it up? He learned this from protestantism (lost his faith to a baptist evangelizer) Unfortunately, the place I heard this the second time was Catholic.

    1. God wants us to love him through other people. "Things" are a poor substitute, and end up in idolatry. The more you love people, the more they start resembling God, being God to themselves and one another.

  9. My husband teaches philosophy. He is very grounded in the Faith, and a conservative man. He, our teenage children, and I had a FIELD DAY with this drawing, which I found on my newsfeed from another blog.

    For starters- This might be Jesus in the drawing, but do we want children talking to strangers in this same vein, being asked to give up what is theirs? It's not that big a leap.Why do those of us who volunteer to work with children go through VIRTUS if this is OK?

    Do you see the fallacies? Probably not. But there are at least 3 that can be applied.

    Very often in our lives (and this from my 13-year old!), God understands that just because a toy or a memento is old and tattered, doesn't mean it is not precious to us, for another reason other than its size or its beauty. Did the artist never read the *Velveteen Rabbit*? The little boy LOVED the bunny and he became real out of love, although the stuffed bunny was tattered and torn and "loved" too much!!! She applied it to children born with physical and mental challenges. Should we just "give them away" and let Jesus give us "better" ones?

    So yes, bad drawing, awful analogy, and very bad theology.

  10. Great discussion! I appreciate your comments, everyone!

    1. Its not about the toy, or giving up something you love. Its about the things we hold onto that don't allow us to experience the fullness of life that only God can give us. This may be a concept too complex for little kids to understand from this picture, so it is up to us to explain it to them.

    2. Jesus is not in the business of bigger toys. He has but one thing to give, that being himself.

  11. I think what is intended to show in this picture was the saying... Sometimes god ask you to let go of something you love because he has something better planned for your life. And the teddy bear and the love the little girl has for it is just a representation of this.

    1. Thank you! I thought for a minute that I was crazy. She I saw this simple little drawing I didn't think at all about children or teddy bears. I thought about how our limited perspective sometimes keeps us holding onto things when really God wants us to trust him, and let go, so that He can magnify them beyond anything we could have imagined in our minds.

    2. I agree, it's much more simple than others are making it out to be. If God is asking us to give something up it is because he knows what is best for our life, so I believe the big teddy bear just represents the better opportunities that sometimes we miss out on because we get distracted thinking we have the best we possibly could, like the little girl with the teddy bear believes. This isn't literal and saying God will give us something better no matter what, but trusting in God always does lead to something better, whether we see it or not.

    3. I agree, Anonymous. I saw this drawing and thought it w a testament of our faith, that we are children of God(represented by the child) and that we at times may be asked to give up something God wants us to release that my be blocking something more beneficial and productive to our christian walk.The toy doesnt necessarily represent "material things",It may be increased faith, favor,spiritual enlightenment or awakening, etc.Im reading these comments and I am completely lost by how people are judging and misinterpreting this beautiful message.??

    4. Amen. I call upon this picture in my mind since I first saw it so long ago. Anonymous hit the nail on the head. This meme represents TRUST. Letting go of trying to control our own lives and thinking we know what is best for us. Jesus wants us to fully trust him in ALL matters because everything he allows to happen in our lives is for our greater good and salvation. So many people were way off the mark on this picture and took it in an entirely different direction.

  12. I saw this on my facebook feed recently and it immediately reminded me of a past relationship and my current marriage. The past relationship was one that everyone seemed to be predicting gloom and doom for, I had the attitude that "We love each other, we want to be together and we're GOING to be together." Long story short, it eventually crumbled (he'd done me very dirty), I was devastated and I felt like God just ripped him away from me. Couple of years later, I met my now husband and we married barely knowing each other but we were just crazy about each other. Then it got pretty rocky and I began to feel like God was (maybe still is) trying to take him away from me "because he has something/someone better." Many prayers begging God to fix this, don't take him away from me, etc. seemed to go unanswered. I felt like I was probably being punished because I haven't always been close to God and have let Him down many times. Anyway, we've been married over a year now and I do have to say that compared to a year ago, even 6 months ago, things are not perfect, but somewhat better and I don't feel as hopeless. When I saw this drawing though, that thought popped into my head wondering if God still wants to take this away from me too. I look at it and say "God, if she loves that little bear so much just let her keep it. Give the bigger one to someone who really wants it." Same here with my marriage. I'm in my 40s now and didn't want to keep waiting for what I thought God wants to give me. How long was He planning for me to wait, or what if he wanted me to stay single? I just want what I have and love to work out.

  13. I was talking to my son about his biological father who abandoned him. I'm remarried and my husband has taken on being a father to my 3 boys. My son was upset about his biological father and was missing him (never really knew him). I immediately thought of this photo. My ex was abusive and destructive and is a horrible role model for my children. I know for a fact my current husband (their stepfather) was a gift to our family. I told my son (now 15) more about who his biological father really is. I told him he needed to make the choice to "let go" & give to God the love of the "idea" of his biological father... which is a fantasy (in his world) and to embrace and accept the gift of a REAL father.... his step dad. He's been more of a dad to them than my ex ever was. That's the way I see it. I thank God for unanswered prayers. He sees the bigger picture. He knew it would hurt us more to keep that "one" around. He had something better in store for us... we have to "just trust Him".

  14. I think it is all about how you see it.. Perspective, that is.

    I totally agree with all points discussed and I do believe that God does give you your heart's desires. And His Spirit does lead us to embracing things that He prepared for us to enjoy.

    But as for the drawing, I think that it does show truth in one perspective.. In that sometimes our own "will" gets in the way and God has so much better for us. I lean towards the drawing because it did minister to me, personally in regards to giving up something I knew deep down in my heart was not God's best choice for me and entrusting it all to GOD, believing that He has something better. And He did tell me He does. But yeah, that is on a case-to-case basis. I know the image does not apply to everyone. Just saying that it touched me to the core and established my faith.

    Faith is something personal and something God deals with you, I think. :)

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  16. Of note here is that the child has LOVE for the object. And with love, comes fear of losing...

    So, the way I see it (and by the way i love this drawing) is that we as humans portrayed as children (we are all His children) holding on to something small and "ours" tightly.. unwilling to trust any one or any thing to replace that thing because we put all our belief that what we hold in our hands is what is suppossed to make us happy. However, when we SEE what else is out there, we covet and want that and then what made us happy no longer does, and we have envy and want...

    This is a simple depiction of the trust and faith we must have in the unknown, to satisfy our unimaginable desires... we cannot see what it is we are getting, until we let go of what we know and clutch to, and open our hands... and in the letting go of what we cling to, so much more love will be placed in it. The bear doesnt represent a physical reward, it represents emotional and spiritual fulfillment beyond our wildest dreams.

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