At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:1-4, NIV)
This weekend I went to see New Moon (the sequel to Twilight) and I loved it! For those of you who are unfamiliar with the franchise (or have been living under a rock!), these movies are based on the books of the same name. It’s the love story of Edward (a sparkly vampire) and Bella (your average human) and the obstacles they encounter. He loves her but he also wants to drink her blood. She loves him and she actually wants to be bitten so she can be like him. Edward’s a good vampire, or at least he tries to be, not only for Bella’s sake but because he doesn’t want to be a monster. So, what does this have to do with faith, you ask? Well, I guess I could get all noble and say I really admire how Edward aspires to overcome what he has become. He actually goes against his natural predatory instincts to be a better man. The urge to be better, to overcome our natural tendencies, to triumph in spite of our circumstances, to just be more is something many of us can identify with. Edward tries to redeem himself for his past sins with good works. The message being that there is redemption in love, even for a monster. I could say all that.
But the truth of the matter is, I am and have always been a paranormal junkie! Even as a young girl, I fell in love with science fiction (Dune), fantasy/adventure (The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings) and romance novels. I love all kinds of fiction. I love Disney cartoons (Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid). I’m a big fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Charmed and lots of other supernatural themed TV series, books and movies. Witches, warlocks, vampires and werewolves – bring ’em on! Star Trek – time travel – ‘nuff said! And, although I don’t generally like horror movies, for a short time I even enjoyed the Nightmare on Elm Street series. Hey, don’t judge me – I thought Freddie Kruger was pretty funny! By themselves, these things seem to indicate tastes that are rather random. But I have found a common theme running throughout – I like escaping to a world where anything is possible.
At the heart of it all, I want to believe in magical things. I want to see them. Not surprisingly, I love to find God and parallels to the Bible in these stories. These stories are not at odds with my faith, although this was not always the case. For a time, I struggled with being drawn to these stories because they didn’t fit with what a “Christian” should read, or so I thought. I even weighed in on the Harry Potter debate and pronounced it evil because of the subject matter, without even reading it. Then I heard a Christian radio show that discussed how evil the Harry Potter books were but that The Lord of the Rings was really different because it was somehow Christian themed. I thought that was a silly argument since they were both pretty much the same genre. But this debate piqued my curiosity, provoking me to read the Harry Potter books. I loved them and pronounced them good to read and not evil. I found the last book to be especially Christian themed, complete with a resurrection scene! Now, I’ve made my peace with the seeming contradictions, choosing to view them as two sides of the same coin. In fact, I think it’s because of my faith that I find these stories so fascinating.
As a believer, childlike faith– a core belief that he is able to do anything and that all things are possible, is essential. Children don’t struggle with this concept – they completely get it. When my son was small, he loved Buzz Lightyear from Disney’s Toy Story. He kept showing me pictures because he wanted it for Christmas and he wanted me to know where to find it. He begged, “Just look at it Momma!” After he showed it to me, he said, “Right, Momma? God can do anything, right?” I said, “Yes, baby. He can do anything.” He said, “Right, Momma – he can even make my toys come to life!” I hesitated at that one. I didn’t want to mislead him. I tried to come up with a suitable, non-committal answer. “Yes, he could – but I don’t think he’s going to.” He persisted, “Yeah – but he could, right?” Again, I struggled. I didn’t want to give him false hope. Then the light bulb came on. “Yes, he could!” I was more certain now. “He could. Once he even made a donkey talk!” I told him the story of how God used the donkey to warn Balaam that he was in danger (Numbers 22). After that, we were both satisfied – me, because I had a sure answer for his question and him, because his belief was affirmed – God is able.
We can all cultivate more childlike faith in our lives but that doesn’t mean you’re simple or naive. It means you tend to look and believe that good things can and will happen. As a friend of mine once said, “When you look for good things to happen, they tend to happen.” What is faith but the ability to believe that God loves us and he wants good things for our lives? God said to Jeremiah (and thereby, to us):
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)
Some versions replace the last line with, “plans to give you an expected end.” I like that translation even better because I believe and trust God to give me the ending that I hope for and expect. I have faced trials and disappointments armed with the knowledge that no matter how bad things seem, he ultimately has good plans for me. And that gives me hope for right now.