By Brittany Darst-Hermsen Edwards
Halfway through the semester, halfway through graduate school, I sat idling in miles-long gridlock. I listlessly began to scroll through Spotify. Desperate, my bleary subconscious tossed me up a Hail Mary: a song I hadn’t heard in decades. I searched it with a chuckle and smirk. Before long, my traffic neighbors were enjoying the heritage of every child who grew up evangelical in the ‘90s: VeggieTales.
God is bigger than the boogie man,
He’s bigger than Godzilla or the monsters on TV!
Oh, God is bigger than the boogie man,
And he’s watching out for you and me!
By all appearances, this was an existential crisis. A grown woman, preparing for ordained ministry, intentionally listening to animated vegetables sing about God. Lacking better entertainment, I laughed at myself, but soon a nearly-forgotten memory stirred in my heart: the memory of Jesus as he was when I first met him.
Love for that Jesus had driven me to seminary, as my unbearably saccharine divinity school application essays attest. But in the morass of half an M.Div., wading among ancient texts and five-syllable words, I had forgotten about him. I hadn’t forgotten Jesus, certainly—how could I, reading that volume of Christian writings?—but I had forgotten THIS Jesus. The one who sat with me on my parents’ couch, cross-legged and sticky with apple juice.
As the songs kept rolling, my still-half-baked theologian brain quickly discerned powerful truths behind these simple, silly lyrics. In the song “Big Things, Too,” Junior Asparagus and Archibald Asparagus reenact 1 Samuel 17, in which King Saul attempts to fit the shepherd boy David with royal armor. Junior Asparagus, like David, refuses the armor, then sings:
You’re big, I’m little
My head only comes to your middle
But I say little guys can do big things too
Goliath, he’s big, but God’s bigger
And when I think of Him, that’s when I figure
With His help, little guys can do big things too
As traffic inched forward, my jaw dropped. How had I missed this before? Junior Asparagus had declared, “I am physically and socioeconomically disadvantaged and marginalized, but God’s power enables me to stand and fight for the good. You, Archibald/King Saul, want to dress me in the costume of privilege, but you’re missing the point. God’s power is categorically different from, and far superior to, the trappings of human social status. He delights in empowering the powerless.”
Such liberation theology and intersectional feminism had sailed straight over my seven-year-old head. But now, crawling down the highway, I realized the Jesus I met as a grubby kid and the Jesus I wrestled at seminary had always been the same. Some people say they have outgrown Jesus, and in my worst moments in the library late at night, I wondered the same. But that afternoon, I knew it could never happen. He had always grown with me, meeting me exactly as I am.
I’ll admit it….I wept in my car listening to VeggieTales in traffic that day. My proudest moment? Certainly not. But it didn’t matter. Beyond all doubt, I knew this: God made me special, and he loves me very much.
Brittany Darst-Hermsen Edwards is a CBF Leadership Scholar and will graduate from Duke Divinity School in May 2021. Born in New Jersey and raised in North Carolina, she is an ordained Baptist minister and founder of Magdalene Clergy Dresses.