One Saturday afternoon years ago, when my son was six or seven, he and one of his friends peered round the door at me as I sat on the sofa in our den, sorting through junk mail and getting ready to watch a game of football. They were dressed up in camouflage, face paint, plastic guns and knives, helmets – the whole gear. Before I knew what was happening, two camouflaged blurs were flying through the air right at me. The attack was on. For five minutes or so we went through several mock explosions and fights before the three of us ended up in a pile of laughter on the floor. It was then that a sort of rolling banner scrolled past the front of my mind: “Baxter, this is important; pay attention.”
I had no idea what the message meant. After all, it was Saturday, and a dad and his boy and his friend were just play fighting on the floor of the den. Surely there was nothing extraordinary about that. The first clue came when I realised that I actually did not know this other little boy at all. I had never seen him before, didn’t even know what his name was. I thought to myself: What if my son had been in another room in the house with our dog, Nessie, and this boy had appeared in the den alone. Presumably he would have known that I was Mr. Kruger, but that is about as far as things would have gone. Not in a million years would he have come flying through the air at me, not by himself.
The little boy did not know me; he did not know what I was like. But my son did— and that was my second clue. My son knows me. He knows that I love him, that he is one of the apples of my eye. He knows that I like him and that he is always welcome and wanted. So he did the most natural thing in the world: in the freedom of knowing my heart, he ran to me to play. The miracle was that his friend was right in the thick of it all. Without even understanding what I was seeing, I saw my son’s relationship with me, his ‘at home’-ness and freedom with me, go inside that other little boy. And the other boy got to experience our fellowship. He got to taste and feel and play in my son’s freedom and joy with me.
Stop for a moment and take this in. “In that day, you shall know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” What Jesus is saying is that we are the other little boy. As Jesus says to Mackenzie in The Shack, “My purpose from the beginning was to live in you and you in me” (page 114). And as Papa says, “We want to share with you the love and joy and freedom and light that we already know within ourself. We created you, the human, to be in face-to-face relationship with us, to join our circle of love” (page 126).
Through his death Jesus has included us in his life with his Father in the Spirit. There is thus far more going on in our lives than we have ever dared to dream; Jesus Christ is already sharing himself with you, with me, with us all. The love and joy, the music and laughter, the care and sacrifice, the beauty and goodness of the blessed Trinity, are already within us. This is the mystery hidden in past ages, but now revealed in Jesus: “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” This is the secret behind the richness of our experience of our own motherhood and fatherhood, of our love and sacrifice, or our music and art and joy, of our lives.
Let us look at this shocking truth from another angle. When Jesus transformed the water into wine, he first asked the servants to fetch water and fill the six water pots. Each pot held about thirty gallons, which totals around a hundred and eighty gallons of water. That is a lot of water, and a lot of work. Have you ever wondered why Jesus asked the servants to help? Think about it. If you can turn water into wine, why not just create the wine and save the servants the trouble of getting all that water? Why involve the servants at all?
Having lived forever in a fellowship of love and sharing with his Father in the Holy Spirit, Jesus is not the sort of person who does things alone. In fact, he never does. While “you and I are not necessary,” the Lord “does not will to be God without us,” to borrow a profound point from Karl Barth. Of course Jesus did not need the servants, but this Lord is about sharing, about giving us a place in his life and in what he is doing. The servants got to participate in Jesus’ life with his Father and the Spirit. “The prime purpose of the incarnation . . . is to lift us up into a life of communion, of participation in the very triune life of God.” (James B. Torrance)
C. Baxter Kruger, The Shack Revisited