Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Faith of a Child

This year when Christmas morning came, our five-year-and-one-day-old Christmas Eve baby climbed up into our bed at about five thirty, like she always does. This time, instead of dragging herself into the room looking slow and sleepy, she had the biggest smile on her face, just overflowing with excitement. She’s always loved Christmas time. It comes so close to her birthday that she sometimes thinks it’s just one long party for her, with twice the presents. But this year, it was more excitement than ever. She practically danced into the room and into our bed.

“I wanna go outside!” she yelled, throwing us completely off center.

We told her that under no circumstances were we getting dressed and going outside so early in the morning, with a pile of presents under the tree.

“I want to go outside and play!” she said.

“You want to go where and do what?” I asked, wondering if I was still sleeping. “Don’t you want to open presents?”

“I wanna go play in the snow first!”

Both of us stared at her for about a minute before we could respond. “We live in Miami, baby. It’s seventy degrees outside," I said, forgetting for a moment that they hadn't covered that in kindergarten.

No amount of scientific explanation or experiential evidence could get her to understand that it wasn't snowing outside. She grabbed my wife's hand and dragged her to the sliding glass doors to prove to her that there was a winter wonderland out there waiting for her to come frolic. Even after she threw the shutters open and saw nothing but the same old pool and a yard full of very green and not too recently mowed grass, she still had to take a long look to the left and right to convince herself of what she was seeing.

Sometimes, I wish I had faith like that. Sometimes, I wish Christianity was that simple and that solid to me. We just spent this last month of December thinking and talking about Advent, focused on the idea of waiting and watching for Christ's return, just like Mary and the rest of the world was waiting for His birth. I believe in this. I believe in Christ, His love and sacrifice for me, and God's plan for this world. I believe, but help my unbelief.

I'm so skeptical about everything, and that's not a bad thing. It keeps me from believing everything I see on the Internet, and everything that I hear about other people. On the other hand, I have to have some kind of proof for everything I believe, like Thomas demanding to see the wounds himself.

But that's one of the best things about all of this starting over and having this little girl later in life than I expected. Disney World is magical again, instead of just an expensive place to wait in line for an hour. Children's books are clever and funny again. I have a more socially acceptable reason to go see kids movies again. And I have the opportunity to see what real faith looks like again.

There's a reason why Jesus told us that we should have the kind of faith that children have, and it's not because it's a childish or ignorant faith. My daughter's belief that it would snow Christmas morning was not stupid or uninformed. Every reliable source in her life, from Sophia to Spiderman, has been telling her, showing her even, that Christmas Day and show are inextricably linked. She believed them, so unwaveringly that even her own parents couldn't shake her faith. She had to see it with her own eyes before she would doubt, just like I have to see it before I believe.

What's more, she wasn't really crushed by the reality that there wasn't going to be snow outside our house on Christmas, not this year or any other. She was disappointed, but when we told her that it doesn't snow in Miami because it's too hot here, and that it does snow in Minneapolis where her auntie lives, or in New Jersey where her other auntie lives, or even in Virginia where her cousin is, she reset her thinking just that quickly and everything was once again right in the world. Christmas snow does exist, just not here, and one day, as God is her witness, she will revel in all of its frozen glory. We showed her some of the Facebook pictures from the family who live in the realms of snow and ice, and promised her that one of these years, soon, we would make sure she got up there to see it. That, plus a reminder that there were still Christmas/Birthday presents to unwrap, set her mood right back to excitement again.

I've had that same experience, when some of the things that I'd been told by the church turned out to be false and unsubstantiated, either by science or just by my own experience. My faith has been challenged, and even changed over the years. I've had to give up on some traditions and beliefs that were never a part of the Gospel anyway, and I've decided that I can still believe everything God tells me, without having to believe everything that people tell me. But my faith is intact, and stronger than ever. And seeing my little girl's faith in something as simple as snow makes me aspire to ask for more faith from the One who makes it snow.

I just need to work up the faith that I can save up enough for plane tickets to the frozen North by this time next year.

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