By Pastor Jimmy Trent
I am currently taking a class with Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF) called Theology and Secular Psychology. My most recent recent assignment was to read The Berenstain Bears children’s book, Get the Gimmies, and to reinterpret the book in a Christian worldview. The following is my effort to that end. Enjoy.
WE ALL GET THE GIMMIES
There is a good amount of sin at work in the vignette of Get the Gimmies so I think that it is helpful to start with the good we find in the opening scene before we get into the fray. The story opens with the Bear family’s love for one another. In all of the mess that follows, I don’t want for us to lose this fact because the actions of the bears moving forward seems to prove otherwise at times. In fact, it is in part, their love of self and lack of love for God and others that gets ALL of them into trouble.
So Brother and Sister Bear have a case of the Gimmies, marked by an insatiable desire for whatever captures their attention in the moment. This apparently comes with all kinds of bad behavior including fit-pitching, demands, argumentativeness, begging, fussiness, disruptions in public, and a lack of care for others. This is quite a mess and sadly, I think my kids have this sickness as well. Let’s be honest, the symptoms show up in my life fairly often. But why? Why the Gimmies? Could it be true that Mama and Papa Bear are too nice in always giving into the cubs demand for treats, toys, and fun? Or is it as they suspect, that the world just has too many desirable things around them that they can’t help but have caught the Gimmies? (p. 2-3) Well, let us investigate both possibilities.
WHO’S FAULT IS IT?
First, do the cubs have the Gimmies because Mama and Papa Bear are always giving in? Well, it certainly doesn’t help the cubs if every time they want something they get it. As Papa Bear will later instruct the cubs (p.16), life doesn’t work that way so for them to have cultivated that expectation in the cubs is working against any real and lasting change. But, is that why the cubs are the way they are? The answer is no but before answering the why question I would like to consider the Mama and Papa’s evaluation of their generosity towards the cubs.
Are they wrong for giving treats and toys to the cubs? Their judgement of this as problematic is robbing them of an opportunity to pursue a lasting solution. Mama and Papa Bear are loving and generous to the cubs because God made them in His image and God is a good gift giver. If they viewed their parenting through this lens and reframed their actions of generosity as a good yet distorted image of the God who gives ultimate the gift, they would then have a platform by which to teach the cubs about where their desires are meant to find their resolve, in Christ.
What the cubs (and we) need more than anything else is for our demanding Gimmies to be repositioned on Jesus. We long to hear the cubs demand, “Gimmie Jesus!”
What about the second possibility for the origin of the Gimmies? Is it the cultures fault for providing a buffet of options always before them? Let me ask this, where in this story do the cubs have to take responsibility for their actions? The reason the cubs have a case of the Gimmies is because they are sinners. It really is a simple as that. They are fallen image “bear”-ers (pun intended) in which their desires have run amuck (James 4:1-10) and are leading to all kinds of sinful choices. They are worshiping creation (treats, toys, fun) instead of the Creator (Romans 1:25). What the cubs need more than anything else is for their demanding Gimmies to be repositioned on Jesus. We long to hear the cubs demand, “Gimmie Jesus!”
THE REMEDY FOR THE GIMMIES
Before we close I would like to look at Mama and Papa Bear’s contribution to this conflict. Their strategy for change is extremely shallow and only focused on the cub’s behavior and no thought or concern for heart of the matter (as we’ve discussed above). In fact, Mama Bear at one point just gives up saying, “Cubs will be cubs.” How hopeless is that? Because the behavior of the cubs is extremely disruptive and socially unacceptable at times they are left with no choice but to do something. This leads to bargaining with the cubs and eventual yelling and restrictions in an effort to change their behavior. Finally, after Gramps and Gran Bear arrive on the scene and inform Papa Bear that he was no different when he was a cub and that they, the grandparents, found that agreeing on a ONE treat or toy before going to the store healed the sickness of the Gimmies in Papa Bear. So they tried this the next time they went to the store and, it worked!
Well, at least this one time it worked but only in terms of behavior change. In reality, no one changed in any meaningful way in this story. All it really produced was everyone getting their way which only led to a smug and self-righteous attitude. What is tragically lacking in this (and many of our relationships) are the missed opportunities to share with and teach one another the Gospel. In doing so we expose one another to the greatest Gift that anyone could ever receive and it reorients our desires to find their fulfillment in Jesus. This change takes time, a lifetime in fact. Change will take place over many conversations about what is really going on in our hearts, not just our behavior, when we Get the Gimmies. We need more than a behavior strategy; we need the God who created our desires to also fulfill them.
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