I have always loved to read. I was given books by my mother, and these books were like gold. I had been a avid patron of the library, but terrible at returning books. I had pretty much been branded as “persona non grata” by the librarians of my hometown library at the ripe old age of 12.
I have fond memories of some fine books. But perhaps the most influential of them all was a title called, “Frederick” by Leo Lionni. It won the ’68 Caldecott ‘back in the olden days.’ It very well could be one of best children’s books ever written. ( I realize now that many of these books that shaped me were prophetic in their own way.)
We see Frederick, who is a young field mouse, off on excursion to find food with his four brothers. They must fill their pantry for the cold winter that’s coming. They are quite successful (it appears) and all seems well.
However, there is a bit of a problem with Frederick. While the other mice are ‘busting their mouse-butts’ he sits quietly thinking. They question him repeatedly, trying to motivate him (or shame him perhaps?) There seems to be a general consensus against him, which is verging on open warfare.
But Frederick insists that he is needed to do this. He says that he is ‘working’. He is collecting sunlight, absorbing it until it’s needed. He takes in colors, and then words. He just seems soak up these really wonderful experiences, and he seems a bit “clueless” (that’s not the right word), maybe a bit “preoccupied.”
Finally in the dead of winter, sheltered deep underground, their supplies are running low. One of the mice turns to Frederick, and asks him to share what he has collected. And he does precisely that. They sit in a circle and Frederick shares the sunlight, and the rich colors and the beautiful words he has stored up for them. Their little ‘mouse-hearts’ are deeply touched by Frederick’s contribution.
In so many ways, this has become a parable, or metaphor of my life. As a eight year old, I could hardly have foreseen how my life would unfold. I do however had a deep sense of being different, even then. My mental illness, mixed with being “gifted”, and then combined with being isolated and dirt-poor, worked in me.
Essentially, we all are products of our personal history. What we have experienced good or bad develops us. It did me. I think what “Frederick” wants to do for us is to process uniqueness, gifting and steadfastness. One of the things that the Holy Spirit has been speaking to me for the last few years is this, “Bryan, can you receive from the giftedness of other believers?”
We really must make room for “Fredericks” and what they can bring to us. We will be drastically weakened if we won’t– or can’t. Jesus faced a ton of resistance as He began to minister. There is nothing new about that. But it didn’t touch His spirit.
“Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more.”