Kids’ minds really are like sponges.
Within three weeks of beginning to play Pokémon GO! with me, my five-year-old had the names, sounds, and CP levels of all my Pokémon burned into his little brain. And now, his two-year-old brother is following suit. I hear Jigglypuff squeals and Charmander squawks all day, every day. And the amount of questions about stats, raids, gyms – honestly you would think these kids are bigwigs interviewing me for a role as an actual, real-life Pokémon trainer.
So, naturally, I’m going to use Pokémon as an object lesson, because when you have a history of teaching children’s church and youth group, that’s what you do.
The Pokémon craze had barely brushed past me when I was a teen; I had already moved on to more “mature” geekery, like X-Men and Star Wars. So, when Pokémon GO! was released, the appeal of vague childhood nostalgia combined with minimally strenuous exercise seemed to me like a pretty good idea all around.
If you’re familiar with the game, you know that certain, low-level Pokémon can require a lot of time, experience, and “candies” to evolve, or even to power up. I’ve been playing the game for months now, and I still haven’t managed to obtain 400 candies for that ridiculous Swablu (it better be worth it)! But it can take a few hours to evolve an Eevee!
I’m in a MOPS group at a local church, I’m friends with several pastors and ministers my own age, and I’m watching all of these incredible people grow and mature in their relationships with Christ. Many of them are developing a real compassion for the suffering – and they’re doing something about it. Many of them are lovingly, respectfully reaching out to others with mental health issues. Many of them are parents, offering physical support to other parents, in the form of meal trains, babysitting, and practical assistance. Many are re-evaluating their long-standing relationships with the church, seeking truth and substance over tradition. Many are “coming into their own” and realizing dreams, visions, and hopes that seemed out of reach years ago.
It was upon this realization that it hit me – we’re all like Pokémon.
Hear me out on this, okay? I really, really love analogies.
Maybe you’re a “veteran” Christian (a Snorlax, let’s say) and you feel like you’ve seen it all. You’re tired of the routine – the events and and the bulletins and the tithes – but then a “baby” Christian (how about a wide-eyed , chirpy little Turtwig?) comes your way and joins your team. You’ve got a great deal more experience than they do, and you can throw that weight around, or you can watch and see what gifts God has given this new believer, and you can stand alongside them as they evolve. You can do life together. You can follow after Jesus together.
I’ve met so many Christians who bristle at the word “evolve”, tensing up as though a Darwinian debate was imminent. But we all evolve – change, grow, mature – as believers, adapting our personal beliefs to be more in line with what Jesus taught. We abandon old habits or traditions that hinder furtherance of the Gospel. We realize where we have been wrong in thought or deed, and we make steps to correct our mistakes. We learn new points of view. We evolve. Some of us take longer than others. Some of us have to break through years of abuse or wrong teachings. Some of us seem to struggle to imitate Christ, while others delight in it.
We all “evolve” at different rates, and that is healthy and normal. But we all evolve. A lack of evolution, of change, is stagnation, and that will never do in the service of a kinetic, ever-reaching, and ever-moving God.
(I still wish that Swablu would get its tail-feathers in gear, though.)