About this time last year, I finished reading a book called, Dude, You’re Gonna Be a Dad! Inserted throughout were quotes—some inspiring, others humorous—about fatherhood.
One struck me; its source anonymous: “There are three stages of a man’s life: He believes in Santa Claus, he doesn’t believe in Santa Claus, he is Santa Claus.”
Though whimsical on the surface, I find this statement to be profound. It describes how we believe in something until it’s too hard to believe, but then construct a façade of that belief when it becomes handy, like a dad sneaking around early Christmas morning to create the illusion for his kids that Santa visited.
It’s one thing to do it with Santa. But I’ve found I also do it to Christ, making faith a talisman to pull out as needed. When I say a prayer for protection at the beginning of a long trip, I have to ask myself if I’m genuinely entrusting my travels into God’s custody or just reciting a superstitious chant. Would it be just as effective to drop a coin down a wishing well?
How do we find authentic faith?
One of the most relatable statements in the Bible—and the greatest scriptural oxymoron—occurs in Mark 9 where a father begs Jesus to cast a spirit out of his son. Jesus challenges the father’s conviction: “Everything is possible for one who believes.” The father replies, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
At first, the father didn’t sincerely trust Jesus to heal his son. If it were my sick child, I too would be slinging darts at anything in hopes one might accidentally hit the target. That’s faith as a fantasy not a confidence.
This I Believe by Hillsong Worship lays out a powerful confession of faith piece-by-piece, from virgin conception to eternal resurrection. I wasn’t there to witness Jesus’s birth. I didn’t see him walk this earth or rise from death. And I definitely can’t foresee my own eternity. How do we reconcile that? The answer can be distilled from a memorable scene in the 1994 Tim Allen movie, The Santa Clause.
Neil, a psychiatrist, is trying to discourage his young stepson’s belief that his dad—Allen’s character—is Santa.
“What about the reindeer? Have you ever seen a reindeer fly?” Neil asks.
“Yes,” Charlie, the son, answers.
“Well, I haven’t,” Neil deadpans.
Charlie turns the question around: “Have you ever seen a million dollars?” Neil says no. Charlie replies, “Just because you haven’t seen it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”
To quote the elf Judy from earlier in the film, “Seeing isn’t believing. Believing is seeing.”
That is where we find authentic faith. It’s an absolute trust we put in something, not despite of but because we can’t do a thing about it. Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
We can believe all these things, not because we’ve touched Christ’s nail-pierced hands, but we’ve touched his nail-pierced hands because we believe.