The man with the yellow hat.
I don’t know where other writers get their ideas. Maybe they are constantly getting divine intervention or come away from deep, dark quiet times with new chapters. For me, it’s a fairly straight forward process: I try to stay open. I try to listen in to my day and stay open to new ideas that might flutter by. Flutter is the wrong word, since most of my ideas seem to speed across my mind like coked up hummingbirds.
But every now and then, one will pop in my head and I’ll have the opportunity to share it with you. (I’m not big enough to use the phrase “with my readers” yet.)
Last night, while reading a book to my oldest daughter, I realized that God was hiding in the Curious George series of books. If you’re not familiar with the books, here in one sentence is the gist: George, a small monkey, causes chaos while living with the man in the yellow hat.
But if that wasn’t enough, here is a quick summary of three actual books we have at our house:
Curious George and the Dump Truck
While at the park, George notices a dump truck that has been left unattended. Ever the criminal, he jumps in and attempts to make off with it, at one point almost running down a family having a picnic. Instead he dumps all the dirt from the back of the trunk in a pond and some birds use it as an island. The end.
Curious George and the Hot Air Balloon
Having enjoyed a small degree of success with the dump truck felony, George decides to try his hand at aviation theft. He steals a large hot air balloon and launches himself into the sky. Everyone is mad, until he saves a worker who got stuck cleaning
Curious George Goes to a Chocolate Factory
If you just got sick you can probably guess the plot of this story. While at the chocolate factory, George “accidentally” hits the fast button on the chocolate conveyor belt. The workers panic until they can see that George is able to sort the candy quickly using all four of his filthy limbs. The end.
Did you notice a pattern there? George goes somewhere. George messes up. Behind the scenes, the man in the yellow hat helps make everything alright. All in all, it’s kind of a frustrating book series that is probably teaching my daughter it’s OK to make your life a pattern of failure without consequence. But I started thinking last night, how different is Curious George from the prodigal son?
That probably makes sense to one person who’s name starts with a J and ends with an “on Acuff” but I promise it’s true. Just take the two stories head to head:
Curious George and the Parade vs. the Prodigal Son
One day while at a parade, George got curious about what was going on so he ran away from his father, the man in the yellow hat, to explore.
One day while on the farm, the prodigal son got curious about what was going on so he ran away from his father, God, to explore.
In his eagerness to see the world, George jumped on some floats and got them all tangled until his good time quickly turned bad.
In his eagerness to see the world, the prodigal son spent his money on prostitutes until his good time quickly turned bad.
Things in the world were not what they seemed. The coconut George tried to eat was made of plastic and he was left hungry.
Things in the word were not what they seemed. The pigs had better food than the prodigal son and he was left hungry.
George jumped safely into the man in the yellow hat’s arms and all was forgiven as he was offered a special spot beside the mayor in the parade so everyone could celebrate him.
The prodigal son stood safely in the father’s arms and all was forgiven as he was offered a special party so everyone could celebrate him.
Both stories are pretty ridiculous, but to believe in God is to embrace the ridiculous. To know that you deserve a pig pen but you get a party. To know that you should have to earn your way back to forgiveness. To know that at the end of the day you should be alone, not surrounded by people that love you.
I’m not asking you to see the prodigal son theme running in every children’s book. I’m just saying that grace, in and of itself, is a pretty silly thing, but if you look for it, chances are you’ll find it all day.