When I think of the word believe, I hear Peter Pan’s pleading voice, “Do you believe in fairies? Clap if you believe in fairies!” Magically, Tinkerbell’s dying light re-ignites.
That’s how I was raised in the land of American movies in the 60’s and 70’s. If you just believed hard enough, it would happen. You could be anything you wanted to be. Your dreams would come true. You’d win the race. You’d ace the test. Tink’ wouldn’t die. If it somehow didn’t work—if Tinkerbell’s lights went out—well, it was because you didn’t clap hard enough.
Intersect my belief in belief with my belief in God and it became the good ole’ American religious try. In my points of need, I’d close my eyes and mentally clap hard, as if my belief fueled God into action. If I believed, I would get pregnant. Okay, maybe if I really believed and took all the right fertility drugs and clapped harder, then I would get pregnant. I didn’t get pregnant.
Even after the formula failed, I kept clapping in the uncontrollable challenges of my life: with a critically ill father, disappointing moves, and lost dreams. Just believe. Believe harder. Keep clapping.
A strange thing happened on the way to the clapping contest—
God showed up.
Even when I was exhausted and defeated in my effort to believe, he was still there. When I finally stopped clapping, he was still there. When I cried out, “I don’t believe, I am a fool and I give up,” it didn’t matter. He was still there.
Believe shifted from an action verb to a passive verb. Belief was happening to me. Believe was no longer for the spiritually fit and disciplined, the one who clapped the longest or most consistently. Belief was inevitable, a planted seed growing despite my failure. It just didn’t grow the way I planned for it to grow.
I stopped clapping and God still showed up.
We have children through the miracle of adoption. My father survived leukemia and bladder cancer to be their grandfather. My husband and I are still in a place we didn’t plan, and are still confused and longing to be somewhere else. But somehow we are at peace, and in a better place with each other than the state we live in.
Belief keeps happening to me because belief isn’t about me but about the One in whom I am believing. And He keeps happening even when I don’t clap hard or long enough. Or at all.