Barbie's Personal Assistant


When I was in college dreaming about being a famous painter and debating nuclear disarmament’s impact on the populist catholic socialism of Central America, I never imagined that I would grow up to be so boring. I realize now that my paintings are not likely to spark a revolution and my politics will most likely never disarm anything.

Nope. I am not a world changer. I am a Barbie wrangler.

I have three kids. Two of them are small girls. The job of a parent with two small girls is to spend about 80 hours a week helping them pick up Barbie, her crew and her bling (Barbies have heck-o lot of bling). Not that I begrudge my role as Barbie’s personal assistant. In fact, working with Barbie has taught me a lot about human nature. You see, I feel bad for Barbie. Sooner or later every Barbie, and I mean every single one , ends up severely abused.

Within 10 minutes of getting out of the torture chamber that is the 1,000-twisty tie packaging, Barbie will become naked. From that point on she will never regain her proper clothing. The shoes literally disappear, like Kirk beaming away. When she does get redressed that outfit never matches. She is cursed to live her toy life in half a prom dress and scuba flippers.

That is only the start. At some point in her first year her hands and feet will be chewed. Usually a pet does it but if no pet is available, the younger sibling will naturally fulfill this role. I am not sure why every Barbie gets chewed (maybe is has to do with the soft plastic of the digits and peds mixed with chemical smell) but mark my words, by dog or daughter, they will be munched.

At least a third of all Barbies break their necks (easy to do with their freakishly long spines). The remedy for a broken neck Barbie is of course to shove the head back on the neck stub, making Barbie into a sort of no-neck radiation mutant version of herself.

The final torture for poor Barbie is of course the hair cut. When she is young, almost every small girl imagines that she too has the natural God given gift to become a great hair artist. Barbie is the laboratory for which she tests this belief. With plastic strands for hair this is a challenge that even Jose Ebar could not master. Therefore, all Barbies end up with hair that says “Soviet Gulag” circa 1946.

Due to prolific yard sale attendance, we have literally a pile of Barbies at our house. On several occasions I noticed that when they get dumped out of the big plastic box they live in, the kids immediately start discarding the abused barbies. Fights even break out on who has to play with the broken ones and who get the newer, nicer Barbies.

At this, I am reminded that we are not much different than kids. We love cool Barbie when she is cool but when that coolness wears off (as it so quickly always does) we are ready to land fill her without a second thought.

I get the privilege of hanging out with a lot of emerging churches and twenty something ministries. While I love these groups, at times I worry  that the value of cool in these groups too often become a gravity well that atomizes true relationship.

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If the coffee is thick, the lighting theatrical and the clothes holy Hollister but the relationships are sterile, our ministry is meaningless. At times, in some places but not all, I wonder if the relationship factor of the ministry is less thought through then the paint scheme in the main meeting room. I get the impression that no one is really working to keep people from being naked, chewed and cut up.

Of course many ministry are. Even good ones struggle. It is not easy choosing broken people. Taking care of lives is much harder than planning cool ministry elements of uping the creative factor of our website.

We should all stop and ask if our commitment to cool is deeper than our commitment to playing together well. How do the broken people in the box of our ministry fair? Do we chew, and break and miss match people only to discard them when they no longer look good? Are we only playing with the beautiful ones or do we find a place to fix and have fun with those that are broken (aka everyone)?

To these ends I no longer dream about being a famous painter. I have set my goals higher than this. Now, I want to be someone who is nice, especially to the broken people like me.

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