Monday, December 10, 2012

December {Week 2}: Belief is a Gift

{An edited and re-gifted re-post from December, 2010.}

I believed in Santa until an embarrassingly old age because Lee Kinard, the Channel 2 weatherman for the North Carolina Triad, said he was real. 

With each passing year, my shaky belief swinging like a pendulum between the magical and the rational, I'd watch Mr. Kinard show a radar picture of Santa's sleigh and tell all of us children to hurry off to bed. And every Christmas Eve until I was 10 years old, I'd fall fast asleep believing that Santa would slide down my chimney that night...even though none of it made sense and all the other kids said Santa was actually your parents.

Looking back, my "belief issues" point to a strange irony. Though my belief in Santa persisted beyond that of all my peers, I secretly questioned the existence of God at a terribly early age.

I went to church twice on Sundays, memorized Bible verses on Wednesday nights, sang in the church children's choir and scrawled copious sermon notes. There was persuasion aplenty swirling about during those impressionable childhood days and I really did believe....most of the time.

As I got older, however, belief became more difficult. While I was able to keep the serious and scary doubt at bay for years at a time, by my mid-20's I was a mess. None of it made sense and I demanded proof. Church-going and sermons, choir and persuasion--they didn't cut it anymore.

Stories of God and religious rituals, much like the myth of Santa Claus and the practice of Christmas traditions, seemed contrived and meaningless. 

I needed someone to show me God on a radar screen so that I could fall asleep with the assurance that He was real.

My own story would probably be a more powerful one if I could tell you that Belief showed up in some magical, supernatural way with glitter and snow-dust and angels, or in the midst of drugs and jail-time and Las Vegas.

But the story unfolded without much fanfare or drama at all.

An over-thinking girl with a still-seeking heart buried beneath all of that cynicism, just her and the book of Romans on a winter's day...

The disillusioned girl and her still-believing husband making a last-ditch effort at church and stumbling into a place that taught Truth with equal parts Word and knowledge, conviction and grace...

The gentle, powerful persuasion of the Spirit that whispered to her searching soul, This is true and real and no amount of evidence can make you believe...

She didn't make her way through stacks of convincing apologetics tomes or enroll in a 12-steps-to-belief program. After years of struggling to understand, the nonsensical slowly began to make sense and with each shaky step toward belief, her feet found surer ground.

I know now that all the evidence in the world is no match for a heart that is simply not ready to receive faith. It's a gift. Faith, that is. And for natural-born skeptics like me, it's one we have to keep receiving daily.

Christmas becomes increasingly significant to me each year because for the Believer, it's so much about the receiving. 

The rituals and traditions and songs force me to reckon with my daily state of faith. Or lack thereof. The motions are no longer empty or superficial. They point, like a radar, to the One who is real and who came and still comes, every day, with fresh faith to be opened as a gift for skeptical strugglers like me.

And maybe like you too.

May hope and faith be your gifts to receive during this second week of Advent.


Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

{Hebrews 11:1)

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