“You used to be much more … ‘muchier.’ You’ve lost your muchness.” Why on earth did this quote captivate me when the Mad Hatter spoke it to Alice in the 2010 Disney version of “Alice in Wonderland”? For that matter, why was I so deeply moved by Tim Burton’s adaptation of this old story? Burton cast Alice as a young Victorian woman who had forgotten the love of adventure and exploration that defined her as a young girl. Alice has been pushed into the mold of society’s expectations of respectability and conformity, and she’s forgotten her childhood dreams of taking over her father’s shipping company and sailing the oceans looking for exotic spices and perhaps discovering new worlds. She’s even forgotten that she visited a dream-like world populated by fantastic characters – a world in which she has an important task to perform that will save the kingdom.
Alice has indeed lost her muchness.
What is our muchness? Strangely enough, considering that Alice was “much more muchier” as a child, our muchness is maturity. Skill 8 is Identify Maturity Levels, and two of the child maturity tasks are to “know ourselves and make ourselves understandable,” and to “develop our personal talents and resources.”
Children have innate bents toward certain interests and gifts, and mature adults will delight in these individual interests and talents, encouraging each child to pursue their gifts, talents and innate resources in a way that is satisfying and life-giving. Each person has a unique flavor, a just-like-me way of interacting with life. Part of maturity is to develop this unique flavor and learn to express it to the world. Parents, teachers, and older friends have an imperative task – welcome this uniqueness, offer opportunities to develop it, search for ways in which one’s “muchness” will enhance the family, the community, and the Kingdom of God.
Like Alice, each of us has an assignment that no one else can accomplish; we are each particularly gifted to be an expression of God’s love to the world in an absolutely one-of-a-kind way. 1 Corinthians 12 tells us that “God has carefully designed each member and placed it in the body to function as he desires. A diversity is required, for if the body consisted of one single part, there wouldn’t be a body at all! So now we see that there are many differing parts and functions, but one body.” (The Passion Translation)
God wants each of us to be “much more muchier” – to be fully alive as the person He created us to be, to accomplish the “good works which [He] prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” The good works He’s set before me are different from yours, and my muchness uniquely qualifies me to walk in my particular good works. Your muchness is needed in the world you inhabit! Thinking of our uniqueness can bring new meaning to Colossians 1:10, “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”
In Alice, her muchness is restored by her interactions with the fantastic creatures of Underland, and she steps into her true identity and slays the terrible dragon Jabberwocky with the Vorpal Sword. My heart burned in my chest with the symbolism of a sword that slays a serpent, and I walked out of the theater asking God, “Father, have I forgotten who you created me to be? Did you create me for adventures in muchness? Show me, Father! My ears are open to You!”
How can we discover or rediscover our muchness, those things for which we were created, those tasks and “ways of being” in the world which are unique to us? It may be helpful for you and me to look back at the things that fascinated us in childhood; as I looked back, I saw that a girl who always wanted to create a place to belong for everyone, one with a passion for learning and sharing knowledge, a child who loved being with others and also sought out time to read and write stories. What do you remember loving when you were a child? What felt urgent and important to you?
Another path of rediscovering our truest self is to look at the times of life when we felt most alive, and to ask our family and friends when they have seen us live most joyfully and fully. Most of us have had at least a whiff of that passion for living that arises from connecting with our deepest purpose. Or we may be unsure about all this; it’s an unusual person who has the gift of parents who are fully aware of the task of nurturing uniqueness, relishing what makes a child different and seeking to develop that muchness.
God wants to mature us into the muchiest version of ourselves, where we can recognize and celebrate our own uniqueness and that of our friends, where we delight in our role in the body and see Him accomplishing His plans through us. When we are our muchiest, we can believe in the impossible! As Alice said at the end of her Adventure:
“I try to believe in as many as six impossible things before breakfast. Count them, Alice.
One, there are drinks that make you shrink.
Two, there are foods that make you grow.
Three, animals can talk.
Four, cats can disappear.
Five, there is a place called Underland.
Six, I can slay the Jabberwocky.”
I’ll see you in Wonderland!