The photo is of my little buddy Ricky. Ricky and I have entertained the children of our church (and adults too) for over twenty years. There are parents in our church who enjoyed my conversations with Ricky when they were children. While I’ve gained wrinkles, gray hair and a beard, Ricky looks the same; he’s ageless.
Ricky’s a vent figure, a ventriloquist’s puppet, sometimes called a dummy (just don’t let Ricky hear you call him that). If Ricky looks familiar to some of you who are my age or older you’ll see a strong resemblance to ventriloquist Jimmy Nelson’s famous vent figure Danny O’Day of the 50s and 60s. There are many clones of Danny O’Day (again, don’t bring this up with Ricky; he thinks he’s one of a kind).
(Spoiler alert: do not read further if you believe Ricky is real.)
There are two main tricks to making Ricky appear alive. First, I try not to move my lips when Ricky talks. This is tricky with letters like B, F, M, V, and P. Second, I give Ricky a distinct personality that often verges on him having an attitude, thus separating him further from me.
I seem to have a relationship with Ricky when we’re performing, but other than those times and our practice times, I really don’t have a relationship with him, it’s an illusion Ricky and I create – sorry, an illusion I create. If I feel lonely I don’t get Ricky out of the suitcase and have a conversation with him. If he tells me he loves me it means nothing because I’m the one who made him say it. He’s a puppet!
Now for a little theology for dummies, or more accurately, a little theology concerning dummies. We people that the holy and perfect God created are often not holy and perfect. There’s a good reason for this. In order for us to have a delightful and amazing relationship with our creator/sustainer God, He has to give us the freedom to be whatever we want and do whatever we want. If He would have made us His puppets we would be perfect and act perfectly, but there would be no relationship with Him. A relationship of love needs the option of not loving. The freedom to do that which is right requires the freedom to do that which is wrong.
A puppet cannot truly praise or please the one who holds him. We people can praise and please the One who holds us. It’s our choice. Let’s not be a dummy about it!
“I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God…” (Jeremiah 24:7)