I remember the first time I picked up a Dr. Seuss book. The weird image on the front drew me in, an image of a mouse telling a bird what to expect in a People House. Another often place I found my nose was inside another Seuss book called, Oh The Places You’ll Go. As a young man who didn’t have much going for him, in that, I was raised by grandparents who had been out of school for 30+ years and literature was not high on the totem pole, I had to find my place through avenues children often find themselves using.
Imagination came at a large price, though. Imagining friends who would hang out with me on weekends or play roller hockey in the busy streets of the San Fernando Valley was the very thing I spent my time on. I didn’t read well, didn’t succeed at school like the others, but hey I had a great imagination, and who doesn’t love that right? So what’s the point of bringing up the childhood of someone who spent most days on the road, on movie back lots, in semi trucks with his grandfather?
I bring that up to say that my children are readers today because of the imagination which sparked inside their father 25 years ago, and not because of Dr. Seuss, but because there was a greater Father who had me under the shadow of his wings. My children love to read, and more than that, they love to imagine with their dad the stories they read. So whether that be 10 Apples up on Top or If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, the mental capabilities of my children are mind-blowing.
This all brings me to another Dr. Seuss favorite, Horton Hears a Who. In the dramatic illustration brought to us on the big screen, the interplay between Jim Carey and Steve Carell is hilarious and thought-provoking. In a famous line Jane Kangaroo quips to Horton, “If you can’t see, hear, or feel something it doesn’t exist.” A rejoinder on the lips of Horton brings the whole plot of the movie to a distinct point, “People are people no matter how small.”
My kids love the hilarious antics of Horton trying to save a speck with tiny Who people on it, but do they get the larger play happening here? The view of the Naturalist as opposed to that view which claims human dignity even in the smallest, dare I say, minutest clump of cells? Do my children get that Dr. Seuss brings to life the classic arguments of Humanism to bear on their little souls? Not only that, but they are now locked into a battle between two opposing forces in this world. A spiritual battle rages on just beyond them and they have no idea that a pachyderm and a mammal are the antithesis which God has placed on the pages of his Holy Word.
I wrestle in prayer for my children daily. They live in a world crashing down all around them and they haven’t the slightest idea. As a father I feel a heavy weight on my shoulders of opening to them the condescension of God the Father to a lost and dying world. His self-revelation in Jesus Christ who came and lived in perfect obedience to the Law of God, who died on a cross and was placed in a tomb only to break the shackles of death and rise again. This is the turmoil my soul finds itself in as they sit with their popcorn and laugh as Horton tries to save a speck. This weight is often crushing, but thanks be to God that he has given me the strength to love my children even as they sit there largely unaware.