Do you remember the first time you heard the opening words from Dr. Seuss’ zany “The Cat in the Hat?”
The sun did not shine
It was too wet to play
So we sat in the house
All that cold, cold wet day
I sat there with Sally
We sat there, we two
And I said “How I wish
We had something to do.”
Theodor Seuss Geisel once told Parent magazine “I think [children] have a breadth of understanding but not a depth of understanding. They know more things about what is going on in the world but not what… they’re about.”
As I a Christian, I can’t help but read his stories through grace-colored glasses and notice deeper realities.
Did you know that when Dr. Seuss was working on his doctorate in English at Oxford he made a surprising proposal?
He asked the Oxford University Press to publish a modern edition of the famous Christian poem Paradise Lost. He told them that if they would publish it, he would illustrate it.
Sadly, they turned him down.
My hunch is that he went on to publish his own poems and parables (over 60 books!) to illustrate the Christian story of Grace.
For instance, I think “The Cat in the Hat” hides a subtext of grace under the silly surface. See if you agree.
Let’s walk through the whacky, whimsical story and notice a few playful parallels to God’s story of grace:
The story begins, it has its genesis, with a boy and a girl, who are stuck, alone at home, with “nothing to do” on a rainy day.
Hmmm…. Sound familiar?
The Christian’s origin story of grace begins with Adam and Eve, a boy and a girl, who are stuck in the garden of grace after their distrust of God.
There is nothing they could possibly “do” to change the climate of their wet, sunless, cold, disconnected-from-God condition.
Sure they could sew fig leaves
And try hard to hide blame
But fig leaves soon will wilt
And soon both did feel shame
All they could “do” was to
Sit (in their sinful condition)
And they did not like it
not one little bit!
And here’s where the story has its first trace of grace.
Unbidden, a cat bumps and barges through the door of their imprisoned condition.
He makes a gracious promise to them before they “do” anything:
“We can have fun that is funny.”
But before the children have a chance to trust the cat, a fearful fish shouts the following:
No No, make that cat go away
Tell that cat in the hat
You do not want to play.
Grace, (says Presbyterian pastor J. Greschem Machen) is the very center and core of the whole Bible-the grace of God which depends not one whit upon anything that is in man, but is absolutely undeserved, resistless and sovereign.
The fish knows full well
if the kids find free favor
they willl have to give up
their self-saving behavior
The cat calmly responds to the fearful fish with the following words:
Now! Now! Have no fear
Have no fear said the cat
My tricks are not bad
Said the cat in the hat.
The cat begins to play a game called “up, up, up with a fish” and the fish fearfully replies “put me down, I do not wish to fall.”
But the cat repeats “do not fear” (something Jesus said very often!) again and does something preposterous:
The cat takes many items in the house (a cup, a cake, the fish, books, a rake, a toy ship….) and after balancing on a ball himself takes a fall!
Christ fell in our cold world
full of cakes, rakes, and fish
He fell far from his Father
To serve grace on a dish
The cat refuses to leave the messy house and opens a red, wooden box with two “things” inside.
(Am I the only one who doesn’t think it is coincidental that the box is RED and WOODEN as Seuss illustrated it? Might it not be pointing to the blood of Christ and the cross?)
Grace teaches us a thing or two.
Thing One: A common (used over 200 times!) Old Testament word for grace is “Henna.” It connotes favor from a good king, given freely to an undeserving inferior.
Thing Two: A second common Old Testament word for grace is “Hesed.” It pops off the pages 240 times and means God’s one-way, unshakable, loyal love, mercy and compassion toward rebellious sinners (C.f. Ps. 36:7).
When we find God’s free favor
In the midst of our sin
We must open the red box
For two things are within
When those kids allow the two things free reign, the situation gets even messier!
And, as you know, the story climaxes with the mother (mom’s do NOT like messes!) of the children coming home and the children are scared about the mess mom will find.
The law of God exposes our sinful condition. Just as a mother is good, so too, the law is good.
But the law cannot clean up our condition.
But your mother will come
She will find this big mess!
And this mess is so big and so deep and so tall
We cannot pick it up there is no way at all.
Grace resolves the crisis!
The cat bursts through the door and took upon himself all the mess.
With a favor-filled “tip of the hat” he left the house in a clean condition.
Free from accusation!
The story ends with the mom asking “what did you do?”
Don’t miss this probing question: “What did you DO?
The children know that they did nothing but play and have fun and receive free grace.
They wonder if they should tell their mom “what went ON there that day.”
They have no report of what they did to deal with their wet, cold, sunless day.
But they do know something went ON.
Someone came ON the scene of their hopeless situation and everything changed.
Now with grace on the scene
Pouring free from God’s vat
Christ comes near to our need
Like the cat in the hat.
Metro North Church