My favorite is one of the most enduring of all children’s stories since it first appeared on stage in London a century ago. After all these years, Peter Pan still has the power to captivate us – well… at least me, anyway. Peter is an orphaned boy who lives in a realm of white jungles and legendary mysteries of eternal youth with his nemesis, Captain Hook, and the ragamuffin lost boys who consider that growing old somewhere in time could be less important than growing up, right here in their new home called Neverland.
Jesus spoke of a kind of everlasting childhood when He called us to be never-ending children in our relationship with God. “Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven,” Jesus says (Matthew 18:2). This requires us to discontinue our self-independence and acknowledge our complete dependence on God, putting aside cynicism for wonder.
Having drunk the poison intended for Peter, Tinker Bell’s wings can scarcely carry her. Peter kneels near her in distress. Every moment her light is growing fainter and he knows that if it goes out she will be no more. Her voice is so low that at first he cannot make out anything. Then he hears her say that she thinks she could get well again if children believed in fairies.
Peter flings out his arms to the children who are not there. So he addresses all who might be dreaming of Neverland, and who are therefore nearer to him than you think.
“Do you believe?” he cries.
Tink sits up in bed to listen to her fate. She fancies she hears answers in the affirmative, but then again she’s not sure.
“If you believe,” Peter shouts, “clap your hands; don’t let Tink die.”
A few hiss.
(Just like in life.)
The clapping stops suddenly, as if countless mothers had rushed to their nurseries to see what on earth was happening, but already Tink is saved.
Believing can overcome the power of death.
As Christians, we believe that faith indeed has the power to save. “We hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Romans 3:28). What transforms us from death to life is our faith relationship with the One who died and rose again for us. Faith truly can deliver us from death. “Faith is the victory that overcomes” (I John 5:4). It’s not just faith in anything, of course; it is faith in the risen Christ.
We now return to the nursery.
“I say, Peter, can you really fly?” asks the practical John.
Instead of troubling to answer him Peter flies around the room. It looks delightfully easy, and the children try it first from the floor, and then from their beds, but they always fall down instead of up.
“You just think lovely wonderful thoughts,” Peter explains, “and they lift you up in the air,” blowing a little fairy dust on each of them, with the most remarkable results.
Lately, I have put this spiritual truth of happy thoughts to work. Most of you know the struggle we are experiencing with our home, my roots, and the desire for my children and their friends to always return to the home where they belong. Finding beautiful thoughts that do not include one of these is difficult for me. So instead of escaping the cares and problems of today, I fly in my spirit to where the Father is sitting on the edge of the universe. He lets me climb into His robes of righteousness and peek out through His sleeves where I can see (albeit dimly) what He sees, where He is and what He is doing. My mountains from this perspective truly do turn into molehills. And the happy thoughts? They take me back down to earth where He wants me to be with the poor in Spirit and those in need, which of course is where He is as well. For most of these people, it is not Neverland; it is their Everland. Thus it will be mine too, because if we are with them, He is with us. Now that is a happy thought made real.
I pray that we stop quarreling over whatever it is we find to quarrel about, and rather change and imitate children who do not worry too much, but live with open hands – people so relatively unburdened by preconceptions that we clap our hands when we remember that Christ has overcome the power of death, and who believe that at any time we can fly to where God is, whether it be the highest heaven or the lowest hell.
Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.