Playing with Father Redux

God asked me to come out and play—again.

In the freshman composition classes I teach for University of Northwestern St. Paul and  North Central University, I demonstrate how to write narrative reflections using a blog post I wrote a few years ago called “Playing with Father.” It tells how God “put together” a costume for me to wear at our church’s Halloween alternative, the Fall Frolic. God taught me some lessons I needed to know right then—in a playful and surprising way.

Evidently, I needed an update to my costume repertoire and some advanced lessons from Father. A couple of Octobers later, I headed back to the thrift store to purchase what I needed for my new persona. This time, instead of God leading me to the various items of my ensemble, I knew I had everything I needed already. Everything but a stuffed monkey.

I was going to be Pippi Longstocking. I had striped stockings and wild ribbons for my hair. I had a striped shirt and some chunky boots (left over from that previous costume). I had an eyebrow pencil to dot my face with freckles. I just needed Mr. Nilsson, Pippi’s pet monkey, to make it clear who I was.

Although I’d had this plan in mind for a couple of weeks, when the day of the Fall Frolic arrived, I still hadn’t journeyed out to find Mr. Nilsson. The Goodwill store five minutes from my home had bins brimming with Teddy bears and Beanie Babies, and I was hoping to find a cheap furry friend there. With only a few minutes to complete my mission, I strode over to the stuffed animal aisle. A few seconds later, I spotted him.

ff1I assumed I’d have to safety pin whatever creature I found to my shoulder to make him part of my costume—and I wasn’t confident that would work. But God had that all under control. The Mr. Nilsson who was waiting for me had long arms with Velcro hands, so he could hang perfectly from my neck!

My transformation into Pippi was surprisingly quick and easy. At the Fall Frolic and when I posted my picture on Facebook later, everyone knew immediately who I was. No doubt Mr. Nilsson helped!

Later, when I had time to contemplate the event, I realized that once again God was showing me something about myself and about Him. But this time, He wasn’t showing me what I could be, but what I already was through my relationship with Him.

In the book series by Astrid Lindgren, Pippi lives alone in her father’s house. Her father is away at sea, but he has made sure she has plenty of gold coins, a pet monkey, and a horse. While others doubt the existence of Pippi’s father, Pippi never doubts him or his love for her. Pippi’s father trusts her to be capable and wise—and she meets those expectations.

From time to time people release “all I ever needed to know I learned from” lists. Interestingly, though I had always loved the Pippi stories, I never believed I was anything like Pippi. Until that fall. That’s when I realized God had been developing in me all those best qualities of Pippi, and I could finally make one of those lists.

All I really need to know in life I learned from Pippi Longstocking:

  • My Father loves me and takes care of me, even when I can’t see Him.
  • I have infinite riches at my disposal.
  • I use my resources wisely and never squander them.
  • My pets are my friends.
  • I am stronger than I look.
  • I can get away with wearing bright colors.
  • Freckles are cool.
  • I am capable of living on my own.
  • A new adventure, with new friends, is just around the corner.
  • Washing the floors is fun.
  • I don’t mind if others think I’m “different.”
  • I am my own unique person and am confident in who I am.
  • I will be reunited with my Father someday.
  • Pigtails don’t have to be straight.

I’ve come a long way, but only because of my loving Father, who provides for me and teaches me, even though I can’t see Him.

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