Do you have any weekly or monthly family traditions?
At some point during my childhood my parents began implementing a family night every Friday. It was the one tradition that stayed consistent until I graduated from high school. We would order Pizza Hut pizza (meat lovers, of course) and play a board game or watch a movie. It was a special time for our family. While I love board games, and tend to be overly competitive, I prefer movies.
Growing up I loved watching movies. There is something about getting lost in a world much different than my own that has always fascinated me. It allows my mind to explore, dream, imagine and ask the questions: What if this was actually possible? What if this was my reality? Which character would I play? And if the movie does its job we will be transported to the unfamiliar for a couple of hours. It feels great to escape!
I find the trick to being immersed in a film is suspending our disbelief. We all know going in that what we are about to watch is fantasy, or at least a Hollywood version of some “true” events, but we must suspend our skepticism and soften our critical eye in order to truly enjoy a film. But what happens when our suspension of disbelief breaks? When our illusion is shattered. Unfortunately, it is not pretty, for we become critical, cynical and oftentimes checked out. It is difficult to get lost in a film when you have the folks from “Mystery Science Theater 3000” whispering in your ear.
The last couple of weeks have felt, to me, like a dystopian film. Is this Stranger Things 4 in virtual reality? It’s like watching a bad, or very convincing, science fiction movie or post-apocalyptic television series. I’m half expecting the president to announce this Wednesday, on April 1st, that this has all been a giant prank and the stimulus package will set all things to rights. Then life will continue as normal. My disbelief is at war with my reality. I’m finding it difficult to stay grounded. Wait, did I take the red pill or the blue pill?
This is what unbelief feels like. You hope for something to be true, but you can no longer starve your inner critic. You feel as though you have exposed the great and powerful wizard and its time to click your heals together and go home. To leave the theater and move on. But where do you go once you’ve left? What will you do with the lack of closure? I tell you this much…it will nag you. You will wonder if the ending was worthy of the horror in the middle and you will be tempted to return for the resolution. This is because we know that a solid ending will oftentimes redeem the holes in the script and compensate for poor cinematography. We are better off sticking around for the finale!
If you are struggling with unbelief you are not alone. Many of the Psalms/Songs in the Bible begin with statements of unbelief. Where the writer is calling out to God wondering if he is listening. Even John the Baptist, Jesus’s cousin who heard the voice of God call out from heaven, questioned whether or not Jesus was who he claimed to be. But I love the answer Jesus gave John.
“The blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” Matthew 11:5–6 (ESV)
Is it possible that in spite of our unbelief God is still at work? Is it plausible that, even in our disbelief, God is still giving people stable footing? Perhaps he is opening the ears of those who were once closed off to him. Maybe he is cleansing the hearts of those who were once decayed. Is it probable that he is calling people in the midst of crisis! Is it feasible that in our poverty we will find our way back to God? Is it conceivable that we have left the theater too early and need to rediscover our faith?
Read through the doubt expressed by David in Psalm 13 and reflect on the surprise ending. Don’t exit too early!
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken. But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me. -Psalm 13:1–6 (ESV)