This I Believe
Raised to Clap
When I hear the word ‘believe,’ I see the Cowardly Lion stroking his own tail like a rabbit’s foot, mumbling “I do believe in spooks, I do, I do. I do believe in spooks” as he quivers down that long hallway to ask the Oz for courage. I hear Peter Pan’s pleading voice, “Do you believe in fairies? Clap if you believe in fairies!” Then we see Tinkerbell’s dying light magically brighten.
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; your dog wouldn’t die; you’d ace the test. The Great Oz would give you courage. Tink’ wouldn’t die. If it somehow didn’t work—if Tinkerbell’s lights went out—well, it was because you didn’t clap—and believe—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 failure of the formula, I kept clapping in the uncontrollable challenges of my life: with a critically ill father, with disappointing moves, with lost opportunities and dreams. Just believe. Believe harder. Keep clapping.
A strange thing happened on the way to the clapping contest–God happened. 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. And 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 a seed, a plant, an entity to itself growing despite my failure. It just didn’t grow how I asked or planned 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, still confused and longing to be somewhere else, but somehow at peace, and at 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 whom I am believing, and He keeps happening even when I don’t clap hard or long enough.
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