I love Dr. Seuss. I read his books when I was young then to my siblings when I was a little older. And, I read them to Rachel when she was little too. It’s hard to pick a favorite. How could you ever choose between There’s a Wocket in my Pocket and Horton Hears a Who? Or Yertle the Turtle and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish?
Each book’s clever and playful language draws us in and then helps open us to their deeper messages. Dr. Seuss (aka Theodore Seuss Geisel) was a lifelong Lutheran who often expressed his beliefs and ethics through the medium of story.
Have you read The Sneetches? I first heard it as a bible camper and later took part in a weekly skit version as a bible camp counselor.
The Sneetches teaches about greed and manipulation, prejudice and division. It points out how we are all “in” but we divide ourselves and decide that some are “out” based upon foolish distinctions that are often human-made.
In other words, we are all God’s beloved children. Nothing makes us more or less worthy, more or less loved in the eyes of God.
The Lorax might be more familiar as it was turned into a movie both in 1972 and more recently in 2012. The Lorax reflects Geisel’s belief in our need to care for God’s creation.
He recognized already in 1971 that too few people were being good stewards of the earth and wrote The Lorax as a cautionary tale. “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not,” says the Lorax.
There are so many connections to Gospel messages in Suess’ works that James W. Kemp wrote a book, The Gospel According to Dr. Seuss. It’s a fun read, especially as an adult who loved Dr. Seuss’ works as a child.
Kemp points out how much depth can be found when the stories are viewed through the lens of faith. Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You’ll Go! has crossed my mind some the last few weeks. I read Places for the first time as a high school graduate. I imagine the book remains a popular graduation gift, but it was HUGE the year I graduated. Every friend of mine got at least one copy at their parties.
I got two copies, and remember thinking what a sweet gift idea it was to give a children’s book. And, I discovered it was less a children’s book and more an affirmation and encouragement for people embarking on new endeavors, like going off to college.
I remember sitting on the floor of my childhood bedroom reading it and feeling inspired. I loved its faith-filled assurance that I was “off to great places!” and that the future was bright.
I also valued its honesty that there would be bumps along the way, but that they would only be bumps. It was a way for me to imagine the unknown adventures and tap into faith both in myself and bigger than myself.
As I read it now, I see Gospel and biblical wisdom in it. It sounds very like Ecclesiastes 3: "There is a time for everything under heaven." And, each thing is held by God. All the joys. All the lessons. All the bumps. They are all in God’s hand.
Oh, the Places You’ll Go was the book I needed as I graduated and started college. It left a deep impression as parts of the text still returns to me in times of transition, like a wise cosmic cheerleader, or maybe the voice of the Divine.
It’s been on my heart with Pr. Zorn’s departure. There have been many emotions in his leaving. I suspect many others have felt the same.
Out past the mix of emotions, or perhaps always just beneath them, is the voice of the Divine: “Oh, the places you’ll go, LCR! You did so many amazing things to share my love with Pastor Zorn, and there are so many more adventures ahead of you!”
God is not only a cheerleader though.
This is the God of Ecclesiastes. The God who knows all the seasons. There may be some bumps ahead of us as we faithfully navigate a call process and live into this new adventure. Yet, the overall vision echoes the close of the book…
“KID [CHILD/REN OF GOD], YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!
So…be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
Or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea [or LCR],
You’re off to Great Places!”