Flat Stanley…Flat Christian?
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1
Have you ever heard of the book, Flat Stanley? It’s an oldie but goodie. Though first published in 1964, it’s still widely read today…but mainly by second and third graders! It’s a story about a boy whose bulletin board falls on him during the night and, though he didn’t flat line…he did flatten. At first it seems like a terrible fate, but Stanley soon discovers the benefits of his, well, shallowness. He can now go places that were formerly off-limits, like under closed doors, through sidewalk grates, and into the exhibits at the art museum. But before long, Stanley wishes to return to his former, fuller, self. And, with the aid of an air pump, that’s just what happens. The story line is a perfect setup for creative writing because it poses the question, “What if you were flat?” What if indeed. What if I were a Flat Kris…or, worse yet…a Flat Christian?
Have you ever felt flat? Perhaps it was the weather, perhaps it was a difficult day, or perhaps it was the absence of a quiet time; but whatever the reason, the day collapsed upon you like a bulletin board and you crawled out from underneath it flattened, slackened, and blackened. Gone is your height, your width, your depth…and your resolve; present is your point, your line, and your…well, your continuing line. After all, there’s not a whole lot going on in apartment 1D! And while there were perks for Flat Stanley, for you there are no benefits to living a 1D life. Sometimes a good night’s sleep can inflate you, but only if it’s a lack of sleep that deflated you. The truth is, we can only return to our preflattened state when that which was squashed out of us is squished back into us. But, even when we’re chocked-full of that which had fallen out, at best we’ll only return to two-dimensional living. We may have regained our height and length, but we’re still volumes away from having any depth or capacity.
So where does our three-dimensional living come from? It comes from our three-dimensional God. It comes from a God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It comes from a God who walked with man, until man’s sins separated him from God. It comes from a God who, when He could no longer walk beside His greatest creation, sent His Son, clothed in human flesh, to walk beside man…and for man…straight to the cross. It comes from a God who accepted His Son’s atoning death and then exchanged the outward, discernable Jesus for the inward dimensional Holy Spirit that we might be filled, that we might be stretched, that we might be shaped, that we might become three-dimensional. What an amazing God we serve! He could have left us one-dimensional, walking through life with only our rituals and recklessness before us. Simple points traversing the line God sketched for us to follow. He could have left us two-dimensional, moving upward as we looked beyond ourselves to those around us. In so doing, we would leave our rituals for religion and trade our recklessness for rules. It would have been an improvement, but for Elohim (Creator God; Gen. 1:1) it’s not the life He intended for His children. No, the God who first breathed life into Adam is still breathing life into His new creations today (John 14:17; 2 Cor. 5:17). Through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we move from the two-dimensional to the three-dimensional. Now, our eyes are drawn upward and our hearts are stretched outward; now we are no longer satisfied with the width and length of rituals and religion but we fall into the capacity of a relationship; now we cease to settle for the mere height and depth that led us from recklessness to rules and we expand to be filled with volumes of righteousness. And all because our God is three-dimensional and He created us in His image (Gen. 1:27).
Flat Stanley needed the aid of an air pump to return him to his 3D status. What does it take for us? Knowing we have the potential to become three-dimensional and knowing we were created to live three-dimensionally doesn’t mean we are three-dimensional. Knowledge is a start, it’s a point on the grid; belief moves us further along and up the axis; but faith, faith which is “the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1), that is our air pump. And who supplies such a faith? That would be the presence of the Holy Spirit whom we receive when we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior. Paul writes in Ephesians 1:13-14, “In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory.” When we run to God in our two-dimensional state, He transforms us into our three-dimensional state through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. No longer are we to walk only according to our way or the world’s way; now we have the Spirit of God within us so we can walk according to His way. Gone are (or should be) the fears that kept us flattened, “for God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and of love and a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
Truly God meant for our shape to match His. As a Triune God, His fullness is complete; His height is shown in the holiness of the Father, His depth is shown in the humanness of the Son, and His breadth is shown in the housing of the Holy Spirit as He dwells within us. And, because He knows how leaky we all tend to be, the Holy Spirit not only enters us, but He continually fills us so that even when our flesh and mind are having a one or two-dimensional day, we can trust that our 3D shape will be regained as the Holy Spirit breathes life…and fullness…into us. (Acts. 13:52)
Flat Stanley grew tired of his shallowness. We would be wise to be no less weary of 1D and 2D living. God created us to be three-dimensional. Let us not collapse into anything less than what we were meant to be. May we not only find our life in Christ, but may we also find our width and depth and height in His Spirit. And, as to those bulletin boards that tend to fall on us and knock the dimensions right out of us, let’s confidently crawl out from under them and do the stick-man walk right to the throne of the Father and wait for the Holy Spirit to fill us again that we may walk in the newness…and fullness….of life.