A dear friend who works at Disney gave my son a sign to hang on the door to his room. “You must be this tall to enter!” Many times at Disneyland, he is standing under a similar sign and he either feels jubilant or despondent. But for his own room, he’ll always be tall enough. I really love the sentiment and I was grateful to my thoughtful friend for the knowing gift to our 7 year-old boy.
But I also felt a slight twinge—like, what about us grown ups? We’re not that tall, we’re taller! Can we still come in? Maybe I was flashing forward to the day he might want to put a “Keep Out” sign on his door, or some other version of “you’re not allowed.” Mentally and emotionally, I was getting a little worked up.
But in reading it again, the little sign didn’t say, “You can only be this tall to enter” or “No one above this tall can enter”. So I was safe, for now, and it caused me to think about the value of signs like these. I can see how these signs could give kids a feeling of autonomy over their own space and empower their “no” to the world outside, beginning with their first world—the family. But I can also see how these signs, albeit unintentionally, could set up a dynamic of “us vs. them” and put a dividing line where it didn’t exist.
And then it hit me—even if the sign said “no one above this tall can enter” I could still go in. All I’d have to do is get little. Maybe I’d have to come in on my knees. I’d need to be able to humble myself to his level in order to go in. And isn’t that pretty much what’s called for anyway? We need a willingness to enter their space with the right spirit. We need hearts that don’t feel diminished when they have to become smaller in order to love.
Some of you may be thinking this is another example of how parents don’t know they are the grown ups and they don’t treat their kids like kids. Not to worry, I have no doubt who is in charge, and I’m still his mom. I don’t think he’ll ever doubt I’m a grown up—but this little sign can remind me to enter his room/his space/his heart with a humble heart of my own. A heart that finds its strength when it takes to its knees.
And then it hit me again (it takes a lot of emotional “hits” to get through to me). This is just what God did for us. Doesn’t the scripture tell us that He, Christ, being in very nature God, humbled himself to appear in human form that we might see what God incarnate looks like? That we might be able to experience love at a deeper level than we’d ever known because of this kind of humility in Jesus? He was willing to make himself small in order to enter our “room” to find us and care for us.
The little sign is not an exclusion; it’s an invitation—I must be this tall to enter. And my hope and prayer for my relationship with my son, which seems to echo God’s heart for us, is that if I enter his space with humility and love, I might never have to read a sign that says “Keep Out.”