JESUS OVERCOMES THE WILD THINGS
One of my favorite books as a kid was Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak. If you haven’t read it, it’s about a little boy named Max who is sent to his room without his supper because he’s being too wild: putting on a wolf suit, running around, and telling his mother he’s going to eat her up. When he gets to his room he falls asleep and dreams that his room turns into a forest surrounded by a big ocean. There Max encounters the wild things, some scary creatures with big scary teeth. The wild things try to scare Max but he stares them down, and they soon realize that he is the wildest one of all. They make him king, and then the “wild rumpus” starts! But soon Max realizes the wild rumpus has to end. He sends the monsters to bed, and when everything is quiet he starts to feel lonely. He realizes that maybe being wild all the time isn’t as much fun as he thought it would be, so he sails home, back to the people he loves.
We read and tell stories like this because they help us understand our fears, aspirations, and dreams. It’s amazing how cross-cultural “wild” stories are. We find them in everything from cave paintings to the movie theatre to country music to children’s books. We’re all afraid of something wild out there, something that seems to be beyond our control, whether it’s a saber-toothed tiger, a volatile stock market, a shaky marriage, an uncertain job market, or our parent’s impending divorce. And, if we’re honest with ourselves, we’re also afraid of the wildness inside of us: our passions, feelings, desires, anger, and sorrows. That wildness never seems to end either. We go from toddlers throwing temper-tantrums to teenagers rebelling against everything and everyone to midlife crises and beyond.
Stories like Where the Wild Things Are resonate so deeply because we know that wildness beyond and wildness within needs to be governed, controlled, reined in, and overcome. We know that if we give into it we might be satisfied for a little while but never permanently. We’ll only end up consumed by it in the end. Max only gains power over the wild things and the wisdom to leave them when he gains some self-control after he is named king. This points us to a wonderful truth: we find our hope and our salvation in a king. We don’t magically find ourselves appointed kings or queens, however. Instead, we must turn to the one true King. In rescuing us from the wildness, he brings us into his kingdom and then grants us the royal privilege of ruling and reigning with him.
The Bible tells us that the wildness comes from our sin. This is why we are so prone to want it, to give into it, and to embrace it, even if we know deep down it’s not the right thing for us. When we choose to live for ourselves, according to our own feelings, desires, whims, and thinking, we are choosing to turn away from God and embrace the wildness. When we turn to King Jesus and follow him, he begins the essential work of changing us and overcoming the wildness for us. He helps us to defeat and turn from the sin that so easily besets and enslaves us. He helps us find our satisfaction and fulfillment in living for him. This is what we were created and saved for.