Amusement park: Puppet Show
The sound of lively music greeted Amalia and Jesus as the merry-go-round slowed to a stop. The fast, happy notes hinted at something fun that was about to happen, and Jesus and Amalia decided to check it out. Along the way they walked through drifting scents of popcorn, barbecue grills, and funnel cakes.
“Mmm… that’s smells delicious! Can we get something to eat next?” Amalia asked, taking a big sniff.
“Sure.” Jesus grinned at her as her stomach gave out a loud rumble. “Sounds like your stomach agrees with your nose.”
A few minutes later, they found a group of chairs lined up in front of a curtained stage. Some of the chairs were occupied by a few people, but most chairs were empty. Jesus led Amalia to a couple of chairs in the first row. Just as they sat down, the music stopped, the curtain opened, and a man walked to the center of the stage.
“Hello, ladies and gentlemen! I am thrilled that you are here! We have a special treat for you today. The Teppup family has invited you to join them as they work in their garden. Mr. Teppup is digging up the ground with the help of his older daughter, while the younger two kids are helping their mother with the flats of small plants. It seems they are having a wonderful family bonding experience…” The man hesitates as the sound of yelling comes from behind the curtain. “Or maybe not. We’d better go see what’s happening.” He motions to the curtain, which opens as he backs his way off stage. “Ladies and gentlemen, the Teppup family!”
Amalia smiled when she saw the family. She loved puppets! This was going to be great!
“I want to plant the purple flowers!” yelled a small girl. “Purple is my favorite color!”
“No, I chose them first, so they’re mine!” the smaller boy yelled back while grabbing the flowers out of her hands.
“Mo-om! Make him give me the purple ones!”
“That’s enough. From both of you. I’LL decide who plants what. Right now I want you to work together to get all the plants out of the flat regardless of the color of the flowers.”
With some grumbling, and a little pushing, the kids got back to work. The mother sighed, “Those kids must hate me. They’re always making my life hard,” as she turned around and continued removing the small plants from her flat. Sometimes she could slip the plant easily from the flat, loosen its roots, and lay it on a tray. But more often the plants didn’t come out without a lot of tugging, shaking, and prodding. And these plants didn’t always make it out in one piece. Mrs. Teppup got increasingly frustrated and began complaining against people who pack plants in stupid flats that make it impossible to get the plants out without damaging them. Suddenly a squeal erupted from behind her, and she turned just in time for a small plant to crash into her face. The kids, covered in dirt, were pointing to each other.
“It’s her fault!”
“He did it!”
“No I didn’t ! You did!”
Mrs. Teppup groaned, and then said, “Both of you – get inside and clean up. And don’t come back out until you can get along.” She picked up the tray, took one last look at the mess her kids had made, then walked to the garden plot her husband and older daughter had just finished tilling.
“How’s it going over here?” She asked as she set the tray on the ground.
“From the sound of it, better than it’s going over there with you and the kids.”
“Yeah,” the older daughter agreed. “Those two are always a pain.”
“I didn’t say that,” Mr. Teppup said. “I said…”
“It doesn’t matter,” Mrs. Teppup interrupted. “Let’s not get into another debate. Is the ground ready?”
“Yes it is. And we did good, didn’t we dad?” the girl answered.
“It’s perfect,” he said as he touched the dirt. “You can start planting whenever you want.”
“Aren’t you going to help?” Mrs. Teppup, eyebrows raised, looked from father to daughter.
“Um… I thought we just had to dig up the weeds…” the girl said. “I… have some… things I need to do.”
“And the football game is about to start,” Mr. Teppup said. “You knew that.”
“But I thought… forget it. You do whatever you want. I don’t need you.” She bent down, picked up a plant, and shoved it into the dirt. In a low voice, she grumbled, “They’re just like everyone else – always letting me down. They…”
Amalia stopped listening and turned to Jesus. “I thought this was supposed to be funny. But it’s not. I don’t want to watch anymore. Can we leave?”
“I agree with you. Let’s go.”
They got up quietly, and headed back towards the food area. As they walked, Jesus asked Amalia a question.
“What was Mrs. Teppup’s main problem?”
Amalia wasn’t sure. “Her family?”
“Why do you think that?”
“Because the kids kept fighting and her husband and older daughter left her to plant the flowers by herself.”
“I’m sure Mrs. Teppup would have agreed with you. But think a little deeper. What was really happening?”
“Well, the kids each wanted the purple flowers… Mrs. Teppup was complaining about everything, and Mr. Teppup and the older daughter wanted to go do their own things… so… maybe they were all thinking about themselves, and not each other.”
“Right. What should Mrs. Teppup do about that?”
“Trade them in for new family members. Or treat them like they are treating her, and not do anything for them.”
“I guess not. Maybe have a family meeting. She could tell the others how she feels when they act that way.”
“That’s a good idea. But there’s an even better, more important, one.”
Amaila thought, but couldn’t come up with any other ideas that topped this one. “I give up. What?”
“Mrs. Teppup’s struggle is not really against her husband and children. It’s against the unseen puppeteers who are controlling the strings. So she should pray. ”
Amalia laughed. “Of course! They are just puppets!”
“But it’s kind of like that with people, too. There are spiritual forces influencing how people act. These forces don’t actually control people like the puppeteers control the puppets, but they can influence people to think and act in ways that may bother other people. Or may make someone feel more bothered than they should be.”
“So Mrs. Teppup should look past what she sees to what she can’t see, and pray?”
“But pray what? That God makes her family act better?”
“Well, if she prayed that God changed their hearts, including her own, to be turned towards Him, and if she looked for ways to share His love with them, the end result would be a more loving family.”
“But what about the spiritual forces?”
“God will fight those battles for her, if she trusts Him to do so, and doesn’t try to do it on her own.”
“One more question,” Amalia said, sniffing the air. “Can we go eat now?”
Eph 6:12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
2 Cor 10:3-5 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
Philippians 2:4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.