Last time was a little heavy, I apologize. Not that I would change it. If our story has often been bad, we need to acknowledge it. If it can ever be better, we first need to know our diagnosis. Lying to ourselves about the fact we’re ill will never help.
We will come back to our dilemma before long.
I watched The Polar Express Thanksgiving weekend with my oldest son, Jason, and three-year-old twin grandsons, Sam and Max. As it began, I couldn’t remember the whole story, and so, I wondered if I had ever watched the whole thing. I should be ashamed of myself.
For years I have watched movies with a sense of anticipation, like a pirate of old, not wondering if there will be hidden gems within, but just how many. You may wonder – what treasure, exactly, am I looking for?
Over time in these newsletters, I will share everything God has taught me; but for now, just a little at a time. An attorney in court must convince a judge or jury of the truth concerning his client. He spends a great deal of time deciding the best way to do this, how to tell the story: the beginning, middle and end. But the story also needs to be supported by evidence and data, specifics, to prove it is true.
My purpose is no different. I want to convince you of the truth. Not just the truth about some things. But the truth about . . . all things.
As we asked last time, could there be one simple story about our lives? That would be quite incredible, would it not?
The Polar Express is a movie about a boy right on the verge of not believing in Santa. At nine or ten he has learned much about life and this world, a world in which everything operates according to rules and principles, and sometimes seems random, but never magical. And so, he has a sneaking suspicion this North Pole stuff is a parental conspiracy. But he is greatly conflicted.
As the movie begins, the narrator, now an adult, begins, “On Christmas Eve, many years ago, I lay quietly in my bed. I did not rustle the sheets. I breathed slowly and silently. I was listening for a sound I was afraid I’d never hear. The ringing bells of Santa’s sleigh.”
We learn he has just told his younger sister he wasn’t sure if he believed in Santa, for how could he possibly carry the presents for every child in the world in one sleigh, and how could he make it across the planet in just one night? Logic says neither.
Many of us have observed our own children going through this transition. As they mature, they greatly value their increasing knowledge, mastery and competence. They beam when they learn something new and there is a part of them that can’t wait to grow up.
But there is clearly a battle here, another part of them that resists, that does not want to grow up and wants to continue to believe in Santa and in a world that contains magic and surprise. Good magic and surprise, of course. Why is this, do you think?
Are they smart enough to know that with maturity comes increasing responsibility and very little time to “play?” Maybe. They do watch us, after all. Have they observed us long enough to realize just how busy we are, but also that we’ve lost most of our joy? Are our children smarter than we’ve ever thought?
There are other arguments to be made, I am sure, by smarter psychologists than me, but I don’t think they would help us.
For you see, if there is a hidden treasure for us in this screenplay, we won’t find it in any of the details on the surface, or even just below. The greater meaning is always deeper. And the surface details can be a great distraction, making it difficult to see past them. This is the reason Jesus’ parables left everyone scratching their heads.
We will talk more about the movie next time, but for now, think of this:
All the important action in The Polar Express is focused on our young protagonist’s struggle to believe . . . or not believe.
To only believe in what is logical, practical, and especially tangible and material. Or to somehow suspend all of that, open the mind and heart, and believe in something transcendent that might seem magical or fantastic to many, but is still true, nevertheless. To believe in something like this . . . or not.
And you thought this movie was about Santa and the North Pole.
Welcome, I'm Sam!
A fellow traveler on this journey we call life and this path we call the Christian faith, wanting to speak to anyone who will listen about the incredible things that God (only because of His incredible grace) chose to reveal to me. Stories have always been a mirror in which we can see ourselves, if we only look more closely. We are all like the children of Israel in the wilderness, wanting and needing to establish ourselves in the promised land. Stories can help us to get there, and to flourish there.
I can't wait to get to know you!