Tuesday, December 21, 2010

We Await, We Believe

My daughter Livie has been carrying around a plastic nativity set in a Santa Claus gift bag. On it is printed, "BELIEVE." The irony is not lost on me, I assure you. Livie's theology is a little confused at three -- which does not trouble me. She acts out complicated action sequences with the nativity pieces, and one of the wise men is always the Bad Guy. Meanwhile, she is a firm believer in Santa. She has been to visit him twice, and written him two letters (the only part of the alphabet she can write is the O and the l, making her missives look they they are printed in binary code).

Liv is the only Santa believer left in our household. At age four, Sophia asked me from the back seat -- our car always being the place where these Socratic exchanges take place -- "Mom, is Santa Claus real?"

"I think it's fun to believe in Santa Claus," was my premeditated, honest and judicious reply. "Don't you?"

"Not if it isn't real," she said. "Why would I want to believe in something that isn't real?"

Why indeed.

We have a lot of Santa Clauses in our house: on tins, ornaments, etc, and under many of them is written the word "Believe." I notice that most of the Christmas movies we own center around the concept of belief, too. Those who find good fortune and joy in the movies are the ones that choose belief over disbelief. The difference between believing in Santa Clause in the movies, though, and believing in real life, is that in the movies, Santa always turns out to really exist. He literally has a house at the north pole filled with elves. I -- SPOILER ALERT -- however, know that he doesn't exist because I know I'm the one who stuffs our stockings, and my mom has admitted that she stuffed mine.

(I was processing this blog on the phone with a fellow mommy friend today, and at this point she interrupted me to say that perhaps Santa does exist and I am just naughty, so he doesn't come to my house. She was sitting in a blanket fort at the time, with her toddler son demanding that she fetch him a spatula for some reason. So I'm not sure she was really focused on what I was saying. )

But seriously, when I hang an ornament with Santa, or I play along with the Santa myth as I dearly love to do, I am not believing. I am make believing, pretending. And this is in stark contrast to my actual faith, my actual belief in Jesus, the reason I celebrate Christmas. Finding out that a literal man in a red suit did not really exist did not in any way harm my ability to believe in a God that I cannot see.

This is the good news of Christmas to me, that the leap I am taking to believe in that which I cannot see is still paying off. Just like the characters in the movies, I'm finding joy and goodness on this path. I find more every time I leap. The harder, the further, and the more unlikely the leap, the more joy. Like when I heard (not audibly, but close) God calling me to quit my job and stay home with my daughter despite the fact that on paper, it would not work out financially. I gave my notice, and a week later to the day, my husband got a raise that made up for my entire salary. There are many such material blessings that have come after a leap. But even more often have I experienced ethereal ones: the peace, the comfort and the sense of safety I always have after obeying God, even when obeying looks extremely dangerous.

And so far, there has been nothing that has happened to disprove God to me: no blessing I've attributed to him that I discovered another, more practical source for. Nor has a hardship finally shaken His ability to get through to and comfort me. It's not conclusive proof, I know. And I know I have readers who are not believers in the sense that I am. But I'd just like to go on record that I believe Jesus birth, death and resurrection to be literally true, and I believe his guidelines for humanity are outlined in the Bible. I continue to test them -- sometimes with more than a shadow of doubt in my heart -- and they continue to seem true to me. I believe he is a present help in time of need, as it says in the Psalms.

Sophia's question is an interesting one. Why believe in something that isn't real? I wouldn't chose to believe in something that I didn't really think was real either. Sophia actually asked me today, "Mom, if Christianity turns out to be wrong, is everybody going to laugh at us?" Well, yes, dear they are. But unlike John Lennon and my 7th grade English teacher who made us study and extract meaning from the song "Imagine," I don't believe a world in which people don't believe in heaven would be a better world. If I turn out to be wrong when I die -- what a shock that will be! -- I think my life will still have been better lived by taking these leaps of faith.

While pondering these things as I drove around in the rain today, I was listening to a CD my sister in law just gave me, Light of the Stable, by Emmylou Harris. Track 8 stopped me in my tracks. I actually listened to it about 10 times, because I had never heard it before and it seemed to perfectly distill all that I believe is joyful about the promise of Christmas: that God provides us with light, and comfort, and promises to make joy and goodness bloom in places that seem like deserts in our lives. Things I have experienced over and over again. A paraphrase of several different scriptures, I thought these lyrics were truly beautiful. Here are the words.

There's a light, there's a light in the darkness
And the black of the night cannot harm us
We can trust not to fear for our comfort is near
There's a light, there's a light in the darkness

It will rain, it will rain in the desert
In the cracks of the plain there's a treasure
Like the thirst of the seed, we await, we believe
It will rain, it will rain in the desert

We will fly, we will fly, we will let go
To this world we will die but our hearts know
We'll see more on that side when the door opens wide
We will fly, we will fly, we will fly, we will fly

I await. I believe. Not make believe. Believe. Hope you do too.

1 comment:

  1. You and I differ here, as we know. But I believe in a world in which you and I can get along and love each other, even if we don't always agree.

    And if *I* turn out to be wrong in this...well, my life is also worth more to me because of it.

    Not the same level of oomph as your leap of faith, I know, but...

    (gosh, could I stop commenting already? But I've just discovered your blog and am reading it on four hours of sleep: we made it to the east coast at 4 am this morning after many travel snafus, plus I had a glass of wine, and it's possible that I am somewhat punchy. I also laughed out loud at the description of your fellow mommy in her tent.)