By Rob Beames
I don’t want to rush Christmas, but considering the heat wave that is hovering over most of the nation, perhaps it’s not a bad idea to imagine Santa Clause sweeping through a deep, cold Christmas snow. Who knows, it might even be a bit therapeutic. Santa makes me think of a modern remake of the popular Christmas movie “Miracle on 34th Street,” in which an attorney tries to prove that Santa exists by citing the words written on a dollar bill: “In God We Trust.” He concluded that if the United States government can put its faith in an entity without providing any proof of its existence, then by the collaborative belief of the citizens of New York City, the judge should accept that Santa Claus exists in the person of Kris Kringle. In the movie’s climax, the judge is persuaded and the entire city breaks out in a joyous celebration.
In reality, you and I certainly aren’t wrestling with whether Santa exists, and most of us take for granted that God exists too. Rather, the issue we wrestle with is the manner in which God exists in our lives. We might readily believe, by faith, that God’s presence in our life is constant and benevolent toward us. Yet, as we go about our daily lives we may distrust this truth more than we know. Given our past experience, it’s easy to pervert God’s role in our lives to match the flawed authority figures we known, such as a power-hungry police officer, an overbearing parent, a humiliating boss, a cruel landlord, etc. All of these flawed relationships have subtly formed a backdrop for our thoughts about God, even though we may not realize it.
A well known English short story writer of the 1930s, W. W. Jacobs, wrote a story that burned an intense imprint on my mind from the first time I read it. As the story goes, a couple find themselves in the possession of a monkey paw, which promises to grant them three wishes. As many of us might do, they spend their first wish asking for a ton of money. The enchanted appendage immediately produces, but only through the death of their beloved, albeit heavily insured, son in a vicious car wreck. After they discover the source of their newly found wealth, the mother hastily wishes her son back home alive. Soon, there is an eerie knock at their front door by the hand of a scarred, partially decomposed, walking zombie! Too afraid to look at their son’s now repugnant existence, the father mercifully uses the last wish to return their son to the grave from which he came.
It may be imperceptible to us, but too often, we act as if God deals with us like the wicked monkey paw in the story dealt with that couple—like He’s out to make us the butt of cruel ironies. However, this isn’t the way Jesus described God’s nature:
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; He who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if He asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:9-13)
Sadly, we often don’t “ask” God, because we fear we will get what we want only at a grave price. We are sometimes afraid to “seek,” because we don’t know if we’ll want what we “find.” At times, we are hesitant to “knock” for fear the “door will be opened” by a hideous creature. Yet, this scripture, as well as many like it, clearly and gently rebuke this counterfeit concept of God.
In our sinful state we too readily believe lies about who God is. Since we know we actually deserve a snake, it’s difficult to believe this is not the way God treats His precious children. We may conceive our reward to be a poisonous scorpion, so we don’t want to accept our Father’s loving response to His prized possessions. Ultimately, we can be sure of this fact: God “knows how to give good gifts” to us. He not only knows how to do so, but He continually gives to us in the person and presence of the Holy Spirit. At one time or another we have all wanted God to be like Santa and unload a big, red bag of toys, but He gives us much more than that. He gives us Himself! Only in His faultless wisdom, can He know that this is the best, most treasured gift He could possibly give to us.
This truth is difficult to believe at times, especially when we experience pain, loss or brokenness. What we experience at the hand of our loving Father doesn’t always seem to match what He’s revealed about His incredible loving nature toward us. But we can be certain He experiences every minute of what we experience alongside of us. He paid an incredible price for the right to do just that!
It’s been said that all one has to do to catch a monkey is to put a piece of fruit in a tree trunk with a hole only big enough for the monkey’s hand to fit. Supposedly, once the monkey has the fruit in his hand, he will refuse to loosen his clinched fist, even to free himself. We can have this kind of absurd tenacity when it comes to holding on to false images of God. Sometimes it’s difficult to let go, even if it means our freedom.
Given what Jesus has revealed about God’s character, we should no longer believe that God would try to “set us up,” like some control-hungry villain. No, we can trust in His constant goodness toward us—even if it doesn’t always seem good to us. It’s alright to drop the banana—that one held tightly in the fist of the monkey’s paw. That false, monkey-paw concept of God can go, too. We are now free to grab onto the truth that He’s revealed about Himself—and bask in it!
(I believe He wanted me to remind you of this.)