“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
“I want to ride that.”
Pointing to a rather formidable ride for a two-year-old, my daughter made her desires clear for the second time that day. The miniature rocketships twirling up around the giant pole caught her eye when we first entered the park, and this time she was insistent. So we stood in line for over an hour and eventually strapped in for the ride. The video clip I have with her captures the joy and wonder (and a bit of apprehension) on her face as we are vaulted high in the sky with the California sunset bathing everything beneath us in a golden glow.
Disneyland truly is a fantastic place, a break from the mundane, to be enjoyed on special occasions, perhaps once a year (or every few years), or when guests come in from out of town, having heard from a far of the magical kingdom.
For most of my life, I misunderstood Jesus’ teachings about the kingdom of heaven to be describing some place like Disneyland. (The word “kingdom” coupled with the word “heaven” leads to all kinds of other-worldly associations—chubby angel babies strumming harps perched on clouds, wizards, or Princess Elsa). It was the good news of some other place and time, a spectacular place, that could be experienced and enjoyed one day. “Your kingdom come,” I remember reciting as a child; I thought I was praying for the soon coming of the Second Coming.
It wasn’t until much later in my life, relatively recently, in fact, that I learned to connect those words with the ones that follow it and with how it is that God’s kingdom comes—God’s will is done on earth as it is heaven. In praying these lines, I learned I am not praying for two things, but one thing. And this truly is good news! Life can be lived the way God intended, here and now. Each moment of the day is pregnant with this possibility and opportunity.
Sometimes, adjusting our lives to God’s agenda takes a radical re-orientation—a break with the past. “Repent. Follow me,” Jesus said. Yet, Jesus also spoke of the kingdom in other ways—a mustard seed or yeast working its way through a dough of bread. God’s kingdom starts small, as something insignificant, and then grows to transform the world. I respond to God with this one thing in this one area, perhaps trivial in the grander scheme of things, but this can lead to responding in other areas and issues, coupled with greater insight, desire, and strength of will.
So instead of dreaming about the great things I will do for God one day, or once in a while, I’m learning to look for the ways God’s will can be done now—in the ways I interact with my daughter (who is fast becoming a three-nager), respond to my spouse when I’m tired, work out a monthly family budget, prepare for my classes, deal with a difficult student, sit in traffic, surf the internet, debate politics with friends, and so on. I’m learning to surrender more now, bit by bit, and experiencing, bit by bit, more of the good life, as Jesus understood it.