Thursday, March 27, 2014

What Robin Williams Taught Me About Faith

When my oldest daughter was 4 and 5 years old Peter Pan was her hero. We probably watched Peter Pan at least 100 times in that time, back when videos were still the "in" thing. She never tired of watching Peter, and Wendy, Tinker Bell, the Lost Boys, and Captain Hook over and over again. We went to Disney World when she was 4 yrs old and she finally got to me Peter Pan in person. She was excited, and nervous, and thrilled, and embarrassed (especially when he kissed her on the cheek). It was a very special moment for this little girl who did "believe in fairies" and Neverland. I sometimes envied that child-like-faith. Camille is now almost 14 yrs old, and she still likes the story of Peter Pan and is now sharing that with our youngest Liam who is just about to turn 3 yrs old. But that innocent mesmerized magic of the Disney animated story, has now been replaced with a more realistic, practical understanding of just a sweet story.

We recently watched the movie "Hooked" - a more grown-up tale of Peter Pan, played by Robin Williams, and Julia Roberts as Tinker Bell. Peter Pan is all grown up, and he's gotten married, has two kids of his own, and a very stressful job. He also has all the cares and burdens of a forty year old father, and husband. When Captain Hook kidnaps Peter's kids Peter has to go back to Neverland and get them. The problem is Peter has forgotten about Neverland, about Captain Hook, Tinker Bell, Fairy Dust, and "Happy Thoughts". He is the "lost man" in Neverland. The Lost Boys and Tinker Bell work tirerlessly to teach him how to believe again, to help him believe again - but they knew that unless Peter chooses to believe - he will never be able to fight Captain Hook and get his children.

There's a scene in the movie where the Lost Boys and Peter Pan are sitting down to a giant table to eat. Everyone is starved and the Lost Boys are making comments about how great everything looks and smells. But all Peter sees is an empty table. The Boys start digging, reaching over each other, filling their plates, chomping down. But all Peter sees are empty plates, empty hands, and nothing to eat. It becomes quickly apparent that because Peter doesn't "believe" - he can't eat. He can't see the bounty of overflowing foods, or smell the aromas of pies and desserts. Peter becomes quickly frustrated and even more hungry. The new Lost Boys' leader (Rufio) starts a "war of words", (pretty much a 10 year old's name calling battle) - and Peter Pan was losing. Finally out of desperation, frustration, and the encouragement of the Boys around him - Peter finds his "inner child". He wins the name calling battle, bringing the whole group to laughter - including Peter Pan. At that moment Peter looks around and sees a table covered in brightly colored foods, satisfying smells, the world of Neverland has come alive once again to Peter Pan - he finally believed. He had let go of the practical, of all he thought he knew - and just believed. 

As I sat there watching this scene with my kids I was struck by my Bible study earlier that day. I'm not sure I have ever had such a spiritual experience with a television show. God was speaking to my very soul - "See that table, my table is bigger, and my blessings overflow. See the bounty before them - mine is greater, and more beautiful. But without faith, as a child, you can't see it. Instead you hunger and you thirst, and go away hungry and frustrated. If you would only just trust, and believe - your eyes would be open to all I have set before you. I love you, and have only the best for you - good gifts, but you have to let go of the practical, and believe in the miracle. Faith to see the unseen." Tears fell from eyes, as Robin Williams had a food fight with a bunch of children. Wow God! Wow. Scripture came alive off the page as it flooded back to mind:

This is the truth: unless you change and become like little children, 
you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 
Matthew 18:3

Faith is the assurance of things you have hoped for, 
the absolute conviction that there are realities you’ve never seen. 
Hebrews 11:1

Just ask and it will be given to you; seek after it and you will find. 
Continue to knock and the door will be opened for you. 
All who ask receive. Those who seek, find what they seek. 
And he who knocks, will have the door opened.
 Think of it this way: if your son asked you for bread, would you give him a stone? 
Of course not—you would give him a loaf of bread. 
If your son asked for a fish, would you give him a snake? 
No, to be sure, you would give him a fish—the best fish you could find. 
So if you, who are sinful, know how to give your children good gifts, 
how much more so does your Father in heaven, 
who is perfect, know how to give great gifts to His children! 
Matthew 7:7-11

My faith was challenged, my heart convicted, and my soul overwhelmed with the love of God - there in my living room watching "Hook" with my kids. I wondered what I had been missing, what joy and peace I had pushed away trying to be the "grownup". Oh God, what bounty you have for those who just trust and believe - our tables are not empty - we just can't see. I don't want to sit at an empty table, I don't want to be so right - that I'm wrong. God give me eyes of a child, and faith to believe. Replace my worry with joy, and my fear with faith. Give me "happy thoughts" so I can soar on wings of eagles - and never be lost again. 

I tell you this: if you had even a faint spark of faith
even faith as tiny as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, 
“Move from here to there,” and because of your faith, the mountain would move. 
If you had just a sliver of faith, you would find nothing impossible. 
Matthew 17:20

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