Maurice Sendak knew a little boy named Max who was wild at heart, unkempt with anger and a wanting to do it his own way. “Go to bed, little man,” cries a mama whose had it up to her freckle-face… but little men want control and in this need to be in it they spin even further out of it.
So Max chooses to leave his steaming hot supper and go to bed without it.
But mamas don’t back down. They are brave and broken all the same, wanting to do the right thing, longing to make little men out of little boys. But because little boys must learn to be content with being little for now little boys must not mutter things like “I’ll eat you up, mama” while wearing monster suits and absorbing a beast-like attitude through fur, horn and tail.
Anywhere but here looks good to Max and as if he’d willed it to life jungle vines grow up tall and green until they completely swallow up the ordinary little room of an anything-but-ordinary little Max who wants out of here and fast. The paddle boat on the night rocking shore where his room used to be looks like the perfect way to go first class to a place where little boys can do it all the way THEY want to do it.
It takes a whole year to get where he’s going, Max entering a world where striped trees tip over to shade wild things. Where there’s plenty of ruckus and no vegetables, where they make Max their King. Where wild is so wild that when Max decides he’s done with the place they tell him “they’ll eat him up” if he ever tries to leave because they love him so.
And that’s enough to make the wild boy run…
That’s enough to make him think about his mama.
And that’s enough to make an angry boy sail back a whole year to the place he didn’t want to be ever, ever again.
And home is still waiting…
And supper’s still hot…
And Max is still wild…
And mama still loves him.
When things in our lives make absolutely no sense, when we wrestle with tragedy “what for”, “why me?”- the jungle starts to look so much better than home because being wild is human and being human means making a ton of mistakes. Suddenly, we stop being satisfied with the arms of God because we feel betrayed by then – instead, the paddle boat feels like the valiant vessel to set the captive life free. Until we realize that this starch white anger is destroying us. Until we realize that the world isn’t very good to us. Until we realize that we’ve only run so far away because we don’t understand, because we weren’t allowed to be privy to the answers.
Some answers we will never know but we may also never know the amount of lives touched by the thing we faced. The encouragement that occurred because someone felt understood because we’d stood where they had. The beauty of knowing that God has always known more than man – how the stars were hung, what prompted the rhythmic heartbeat of His majesty that makes the sea pulse forth and back again, why He loved us so much that He’d give His perfect Son to sop up the messes we’d made of ourselves and our covenant with Him.
When your angry and wild and unkempt… when the jungle engulfs your room and you want to hop in the boat and sail a year away from wherever it is you are – know that your anger is safe with God. Know that He’s BIG enough to take your lashing, thrashing and stomping. Know that no matter where you run or how far you sail… your supper will always be hot and your God will always understand because you simply can’t slam the door on God.
The door it is always, always going to be open.