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OF OZ AND GOD

 



OF OZ AND GOD

You, me, and Dorothy of The Wizard of Oz—we have a lot in common.

We all know what it’s like to find ourselves in a distant land surrounded by strange people.

Though our chosen path isn’t paved with yellow bricks, we still hope it will lead us home.

The witches of the East want more than our ruby slippers.

And Dorothy is not the first person to find herself surrounded by brainless, heartless, and spineless people.

We can relate to Dorothy.

But when Dorothy gets to the Emerald City the comparison is uncanny. For what the Wizard said to her, some think God says to us.

              

You remember the plot. Each of the chief characters comes to the Wizard with a need. Dorothy seeks a way home. The scarecrow wants wisdom. The tinman desires a heart. The lion needs courage. The Wizard of Oz, they’ve heard, could grant all four. So they come. Trembling and reverent, they come. They shiver in his presence and gasp at his power. And with all the courage they can muster, they present their requests.

His response? He will help after they demonstrate their worthiness. He will help as soon as they overcome the source of evil. Bring me the witch’s broom, he says, and I will help you.

 

So they do. They scale the castle walls and make wax of the witch, and in the process, they make some startling discoveries. They discover they can overcome evil. They discover that, with a little luck, a quick mind can handle the best the worst has to give. And they discover they can do it all without the wizard.

 

Which is good because when they get back to Oz the foursome learn that the wizard is a wimp. The curtain is pulled back, and the almighty is revealed. The one they worshiped and feared is, alas, a balding, pudgy professor who can stage a good light show but can do nothing to solve their problems.

 

He redeems himself, however, by what he shows this band of pilgrims. (This is the part that makes me think the Wizard may have done a pulpit circuit before he landed the wizard position.) He tells Dorothy and company that all the power they need is the power they already have. He explains that the power to handle their problems was with

 

them all along. After all, didn’t the scarecrow display wisdom, the tinman compassion, and the lion courage when they dealt with the witch? And Dorothy doesn’t need the help of Oz almighty; all she needs is a good, hot-air balloon.

The movie ends with Dorothy discovering that her worst nightmare was in reality just a bad dream. That her somewhere-over-the-rainbow home was right where she’d always been. And that it’s nice to have friends in high places, but in the end, it’s up to you to find your own way home.

The moral of The Wizard of Oz? Everything you may need, you’ve already got.

The power you need is really a power you already have. Just look deep enough, long enough, and there’s nothing you can’t do.

Sound familiar? Sound patriotic? Sound . . . Christian?

For years it did to me. I’m an offspring of sturdy stock. A product of a rugged, blue-collar culture that honored decency, loyalty, and hard work and loved Bible verses like “God helps those who help themselves.” (No, it’s not in there.)

“God started it and now we must finish it” was our motto. He’s done his part; now we do ours. It’s a fifty-fifty proposition. A do-it-yourself curriculum that majors in our part and minors in God’s part.

“Blessed are the busy,” this theology proclaims, “for they are the true Christians.”

No need for the supernatural. No place for the extraordinary. No room for the transcendent. Prayer becomes a token. (The real strength is within you, not “up there.”) Communion becomes a ritual. (The true hero is you, not him.) And the Holy Spirit? Well, the Holy Spirit becomes anything from a sweet disposition to a positive mental attitude.

It’s a wind-the-world-up-and-walk-away view of God. And the philosophy works . . . as long as you work. Your faith is strong, as long as you are strong. Your position is secure, as long as you are secure. Your life is good, as long as you are good.

 

But, alas, therein lies the problem. As the Teacher said, “No one is good” (Matt. 19:17 nkjv). Nor is anyone always strong; nor is anyone always secure.

Do-it-yourself Christianity is not much encouragement to the done in and worn out.

Self-sanctification holds little hope for the addict.

 

“Try a little harder” is little encouragement for the abused.

At some point we need more than good advice; we need help. Somewhere on this journey home we realize that a fifty-fifty proposition is too little. We need more—more than a pudgy wizard who thanks us for coming but tells us the trip was unnecessary.

 

We need help. Help from the inside out. The kind of help Jesus promised. “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it does not see him or know him. But you know him, because he lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:16–17, emphasis mine).

Note the final words of the verse. And in doing so, note the dwelling place of God—“in you.”

Not near us. Not above us. Not around us. But in us. In the part of us we don’t even know. In the heart no one else has seen. In the hidden recesses of our being dwells, not an angel, not a philosophy, not a genie, but God. Imagine that.

 

When my daughter Jenna was six years old, I came upon her standing in front of a full-length mirror. She was looking down her throat. I asked her what she was doing, and she answered, “I’m looking to see if God is in my heart.”

I chuckled and turned and then overheard her ask him, “Are you in there?” When no answer came, she grew impatient and spoke on his behalf. With a voice deepened as

much as a six-year-old can, she said, “Yes.”

 

She’s asking the right question. “Are you in there?” Could it be what they say is true? It wasn’t enough for you to appear in a bush or dwell in the temple? It wasn’t enough for you to become human flesh and walk on the earth? It wasn’t enough to leave your word and the promise of your return? You had to go further? You had to take up residence in us?

 

“Do you not know,” Paul penned, “that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit?” (1 Cor. 6:19 nkjv).

Perhaps you didn’t. Perhaps you didn’t know God would go that far to make sure you got home. If not, thanks for letting me remind you.

The wizard says look inside yourself and find self. God says look inside yourself and find God. The first will get you to Kansas.

The latter will get you to heaven.

Take your pick.

 

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