Not exactly the words I would expect to come from my grand-daughter just a week beyond officially turning two, especially on the quick trip to the store. But Elyse repeated the words with such feeling that Jarrod and Sarah quickly looked toward the backseat, only to see their daughter looking out the car window, pointing to the sky.
Dude, she repeated.
Sure enough, when her parents peer out the window in the direction Elyse was pointing, they saw it. High overhead, white instead of expected brownish-green, a fluffy turtle floated brilliant blue seas. Elyse had just discovered her first cloud animal ... her enduring passion, the turtle.
Now I know what you're asking. "What's dude have to do with a turtle?"
You have to understand the world in which my grand-daughter has lived her short little life. After momma and dada, those first words squeezing every parent's heart when their 'little blessing' finally speaks, Elyse added to her vocabulary t ... perfect Elyse-ese for TV. Any time she walked, or was carried, into a room where the tube stared you in the face, pleas for t, t, t quickly filled the air. Most of the time Veggie Tales, Music Machine or God Made Me proved her chosen fare. But somewhere along the line, when Elyse was not much more than 12 months old, Finding Nemo became her world of choice. Now every time Elyse saw a television, moh, moh, moh became the chorus. Elyse, still a one-syllable communicator, didn't have any difficulty asking for her underwater friend.
Believe it or not I am getting to the point. And, if you're familiar with the movie, you've already swum ahead of me, to the Australian gulf stream where Nemo meets a giant sea tortoise headed down under who must have spent a great deal of time in the California surf. At least judging from his lingo. Dude peppers every other sentence with a naturalness only those familiar with those warm California sands can attest.
And so, when Elyse went to the zoo two weeks ago, who could be surprise when squealing with delight she danced a little gig upon seeing Dudes lumbering slowly along the grassy edge of the Tortoise Exhibit. Or her rapture at watching the sea turtle with its great hawk beak glide against the glassy divide separating Elyse from Nemo's world. A world she instantly reached out to touch. A world that later on the way to the store still held her enchanted as she gazed upward into vivid blue seas floating so calmly overhead … where she discovered her familiar friend Dude looking into her world, filling her with renewed joy.
In many respects, Elyse's experience mirrors our own. As some point in life we choose the world in which we live … even changing worlds, as need or circumstance dictates. Much of the time we move between parallel worlds, attempting to come to terms with who we are, why we are, what living is really all about. Selecting familiar friends to be our source of joy, of peace, of contentment.
It is so easy to confuse the shadowlands in which we dwell with reality … the reality never intended to be visible to the human eye … the reality seen only through the eyes of faith.
The familiar friends chosen in our shadowlands are little more than Elyse's cloud animals … vapors that dissipate in the heat of day … shifting shadows, without substance.
But there remains a Voice, piercing those cloud figures of our choosing. A Voice speaking promise:
Come unto Me, all you who are weary and heavy laden … learn of Me … I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
I want to hear that Voice. Hearing, I want to listen. Then, with the wonder of childlike faith and innocence, when I gaze upward, I want to meet the adoring eyes of Abba Father peering into mine, filling we with enchantment and delight. And I want it to permeate my heart with glee and set my feet to dancing.