On a festive winter night in December 2004, I had the pleasure of ushering a very nauseous six-year-old boy up the dark theater aisle in the middle of the movie—with my cupped hands full of…vomit. The crazy train ride/roller coaster scene had been his undoing and being the good parent that I am, I tried to keep the contents of his stomach from spewing over those around us by containing it in my hands. Let’s just say my first viewing of The Polar Express was not what I had hoped it would be, but it was definitely memorable.
I have developed a love for this movie though. One of my favorite scenes is the one with the main character on top of the train with the hobo. The hobo asks the boy what he believes about Santa Claus.
“What exactly is your persuasion on the big man?”
The boy replies, “Well, I... I want to believe. But...”
Then the hobo cuts right to the heart of the matter. “But you don't wanna be bamboozled. You don't wanna be led down the primrose path. You don't wanna be conned or duped, have the wool pulled over your eyes. Hoodwinked. You don't wanna be taken for a ride, railroaded. Seeing is believing. Am I right?”
That scene always sparks an angst in me heart. Sometimes we want to believe, but...
I am reminded of the story of the father of the demon possessed boy in Mark 9:17-24. This distraught father brought his son to Jesus for healing.
Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”
Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.”
This man wanted to not just believe, but believe with the kind of faith that over rules all doubt.
If so, what kind of believer are you?
Some people are head-first-in-the-deep-end believers. They’ve been to the depths of the miry pit, a prodigal in a foreign land existing with the pigs, until God pulled them out and redeemed them from the past. They’ve not only seen but experienced what only God can do when He rescues a lost soul, and so driven by love and thankfulness, they dive into their faith with passion and fearlessness.
Then there are those who have always believed. They probably grew up in the church and felt the hand of God on their lives from the moment of their earliest memory. They’ve walked in a sweet fellowship all the way.
And then there are those who, as the hobo so succinctly puts it, “don’t want to be bamboozled… led down the primrose path.”
They want to believe but… “Seeing is believing. Am I right?”
Thomas, one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, was such a man. I think he often gets a bad rap for his doubts. His doubting was a search for the truth, not a refusal to believe.
One commentary puts it this way, “Doubt is one foot lifted, poised to step forward or backward. There is no motion until the foot comes down.”
For Thomas, doubt was merely his way of asking a question and listening for the truth. If we’re honest, a lot of us are, at one time or another, Thomas’s. Not wanting to be bamboozled, we question and doubt. But we don’t always listen for an answer.
We tuck our doubt away in the hard shell of our heart and hold onto it as if it makes us wise or keeps us safe from some humiliation or tragic character flaw.
Sure we may have avoided being bamboozled, but have we missed out on experiencing the truth?
What if this Christmas we pulled out those doubts, set them on the table before us like a deck of cards, and said, “Here Lord, I'm showing all my cards...my questions, my doubts, my fears, my lack of faith? I believe, Lord. Help my unbelief.”
What would it hurt to take that chance, to, as the commentary explained, lift a foot and be ready to take that step forward or backward?
Caution though. When the foot is lifted we must stand straight. Leaning in one direction or the other won’t do. It presupposes the answer you are expecting. Instead, for just one moment, open your heart and expect God to answer.
God knows our hearts are wounded and broken. Our doubts don’t surprise or scare Him. He was not caught off guard when Thomas said, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe” (John 20:25).
Jesus’ response to Thomas's doubts was “Peace to you.” Then He asked Thomas to reach out and touch Him, saying, “Do not be unbelieving, but believing” (John 20:27).
He wants us to bring our doubts to Him. His statement of "peace to you" tells us not to fear these doubts, but to bring them honestly to Him. Then He allows us to reach out and touch Him that we might know the truth.
In a year that has been filled with primrose paths, conning, duping, and a bamboozling amount of conflicting information that has at times left us feeling a bit hoodwinked to say the least, one truth has been unchanging. The truth of God's Word has not changed, nor has it hidden itself from us.
Too may people have spent this year in panic, confusion, and fear. Too many say the events and challenges of this past year have caused them to experience a crisis of faith.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
What kind of believer are you? If you find yourself with doubts, struggling with your faith, don’t be afraid to say, “Lord, help my unbelief.”
Listen as He responds with “peace to you” as He invites you to reach out and touch Him.
Then, like Thomas, be ready to “put your finger into the print of the nails.”
What better time than Christmas to open our hearts for a miracle of faith?