I have had many role models. There were people who inspired me to say “When I grow up I want to me like ….” The first one was my dad and as my world expanded so did my role model list. Yesterday the religious world celebrated one of my recent role models, Francis of Assisi. I realize though that I had the wrong formula. I could never grow up to be like Francis for in all the important ways Francis never grew up. This was his charm and the secret of his spiritual life.
In the Gospels Jesus reminds us that we are to come to him as little children. Many have struggled with just how to do that but Francis had the answer! Francis knew the lovable God and loved God with his whole heart. He knew that he was loved and loved enthusiastically in return. He wanted nothing more than to love and be loved by God. It is not so much that he forsook the worldly pleasures. It was that he had no room for them, so full was his heart.
In his itinerant evangelistic ministry, he pointed people to the lovable God. This was in sharp contrast to the more theologically sophisticated rule laden and performance based message that was and is so prevalent. It is no wonder people responded! He so obviously loved the God of Love that his message asking folks to repent and turn to this God who so loved them, was gladly received.
His authentic childlike devotion stands as an example for this day. It is in the reversion to simple childlike devotion that we follow in his steps. There is something wonderfully kenotic about this reversion. It feels like the call to take up one’s cross, to die to the things that crowd out childlike ardour, and follow after the lovable Saviour.
There are many tomes written filled with deep theology. Francis did not pen a one of them. Instead we have his poetry and prayers and songs. In them we glimpse the Peter Pan of Church History, for Francis never grew up!
As I visited an elderly Mennonite couple’s home, I read a plaque. It said “We are too soon old, and too late smart.” Francis is forever young and I am only grasping the beauty of that now. Better late than never, I guess.
When I grow up I want to be a child, a child of the lovable God revealed in the lovable Saviour.
I want to take some space to thank folks who encouraged me over this last week. I really appreciate it.