Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Wizard of Oz: Where Are You on the Yellow-Brick Road of Your Spiritual Journey? 001

Coming Soon! Finally! Inspired by John Speight's analogy during a recent sermon, I will be dividing the yellow-brick road into the significant parts of our spiritual journey.

Last Edited: 8/27/15

Background: There is one memory of my life in Kinzers that is perhaps vivid and colorful than any other. The Wizard of Oz! It was before we had a VCR - they were relatively new in the United States, but not in everyone's home yet - and they only played it ONE time a year! Just like the Christmas shows Frosty and Rudolph. Since there wasn't a way to record them or even watch shows and movies any time we wanted to, watching  The Wizard of Oz was a momentous occasion, a rite of passage, that for one single time each year it graced our television sets and put a young boy's imagination into a whirlwind all his own. It was the one of very few nights during the year that I stayed up late. One year I remember snacking on pumpkin seeds so I'm guessing it aired in the fall. I also remember the commercials were painstaking especially during the scene where Dorothy was watching the sand of the hour glass dwindle and drop to the bottom. I got worried every time. No matter how many times I had watched it, I didn't know whether or not she would make it alive.

Black and White

The beginning of The Wizard of Oz, as you know, is filmed in black and white. It was effective in the movie because it makes us appreciate the colorful beauty of Oz. It's also effective when used as part of our spiritual journey. Our spiritual journey doesn't begin until we get to the yellow-brick road. However, our life's journey begins at home. Home for Dorothy was on a farm in Kansas where everyday she is surrounded by the people she loves (and that love her) - people that show up during our spiritual journey down the brick road. Of course they look different because Dorothy, just like us, has a new set of eyes - spiritual lenses if you will. Our spiritual journey begins in black and white and it is not only about our loved ones and the people we encounter - from the Jesus freaks to the non-believers as well as the many who are in the gray - ones that are too afraid or too naive. It's also our nesting ground where we one day hope to leave and take flight. 

While on the farm, Dorothy is told about the nuts and bolts of life - just like you and I were while growing up. If you were anything like me you didn't want to hear any life lessons. It's almost a natural instinct to avoid hard truths no matter what stage of life we're in. Whether we wanted to listen and apply those truths then or not, we - or most of us- realize later in life that those tidbits of knowledge are relevant and crucial to our growth. We were told in more ways than one to use our brain, use our heart and be courageous. We also were told to get down off any metaphorical ledges as we exercised our belief of being invincible. However, sometimes you need to fall in the mud - albeit a pig pen or not - in order to regain focus on the right path...and to realize we are not invincible no matter how far we are along the yellow path. We are very much destructible - hence, another character that we'll get to in a moment.

Along with the people we love - our Auntie Ems and Uncle Henrys - we have our family pet. Toto could make a good case for representing Christ in our spiritual walks since he is there every step of the way along the brick road - not to mention the fact that Miss Gulch wants to kill him - but here, Toto may perhaps best represent the fruits of the spirit. Specifically joy seeing how much of it he brings to Dorothy. Toto also represents anything else that keeps us both physically and spiritually upright.

No matter how upright we are or even feel, falling is inevitable. I believe character is measured by our mind set once we stand up. Dorothy "falls down" by running away because her dog was being threatened to be put down. Enter Miss Gulch - a.k.a. The Enemy. The physical things we hold dear can be stripped from us at any moment through natural disasters, crime etc. Our spiritual belongings (fruits of the spirit) can also be taken from us from either Miss Gulch herself or her flying monkeys. The difference between the movie and my analogy of it is that Dorothy realized what is precious to her - joy. Joy is so important to her that she chooses to run away in order to find it.  Being without her dog means not being with her fruit. It's worth noting that she is showing courage by doing this - maybe not common sense - as well as spiritual maturity.  In our own black and white stage of our spiritual journey we don't always know what our Toto is - what shape, size or even origin. We are created by God. Yahweh. The Light of the world. When we enter this world, we have that Light within us. We just don't know it - not to its full potential. We may show flashes of of maturity during this period, but we're still without our solidified center.

Sometimes we need to "run away" in order to know it. And sometimes it takes a long journey down a long yellow-brick road for us to stand back up and face, with courage, the force behind what was taken from us. And the only way...I repeat, the only way to do that is to stand up and face the force that has given us everything. Everything we need to arm ourselves to get back what was stolen.

Let's meet the other characters in black and white. When Dorothy runs away, she does so with fear of her joy being stripped away. This is a very fragile state she enters into - or we enter into. When not spiritually sound or mature, we make rash decisions based on only what we think is right. Often times  we neglect council of those that are wiser than us. Let's be clear here...council doesn't mean the so-called wiser one is right. Hence all of the  legalism that is wrongfully taught and carelessly and weakly believed. I don't mean followers of this lie are weak in their beliefs - sadly it's quite the opposite. They're firm in it. It's just not the truth. We tend to believe the first thing that's told us. Think about your opinions on certain things for a moment. How did you come to value such opinions? Was it because of your college professor? So, just because your teacher/professor says something, that means it's true? What about your pastor? The same thing happens. This is why your yellow-brick road must be land-marked by churches that teach grace, not law. 

Upon running away, Dorothy, meets a fortune teller. A man who has no skill in reading the past, present or future, but Dorothy is putting all her faith into this man who builds his life with lies. The good thing about this is that I believe this man that hides behind a curtain of truth is trying to convince young Dorothy to go back home. It can also be good in our own spiritual walks. Often times we must encounter degrees of evil in the world (i.e. assault, dishonesty etc.) in order for us to realize that we need a higher power in our lives. Without Christ, we become a believer of lies. Sometimes those lies are what we tell ourselves. Without a network of spiritual friends, we are prone to succumb to the negative thoughts and feelings about ourselves. Remember Pretty Woman? Vivian at one point said, "the bad things are easier to believe."  Without the constant feeding of Christ's teachings and the fellowship of believers, we believe the lies we tell ourselves and that's exactly what the Enemy wants us to do. The Enemy wants us to drop our spiritual fruits like their torn and battered luggage and run far away from home.

I got ahead of myself a little. How can I forget the first song of our journey? Dorothy sings, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, knowing, but more so hoping that's there's something better. We sing our rainbow song when we're going through a storm and we feel we just can't do it. We feel it's a hopeless situation that will bring forth no good results. This is the mindset of someone living in the black and white world. Someone that is yet to discover the power behind the yellow brick road. Dorothy is showing us something here that I want you to realize. She hasn't physically begun her walk, but she's showing signs of maturity. Showing signs that if the yellow-brick road were to appear right then and there, she'd take it. Not all of us are blessed to grow up in a spiritual environment that shows us and teaches us about the brick-road. But I believe no matter the situation, somewhere or somehow, there's a tug that's telling you which direction to go. It's amazing the excuses (the lies) we tell ourselves for not listening to that calling. be continued

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