Thursday, December 15, 2011

Do You Really Believe?

When the Polar Express movie was released a few years ago, the first thing that caught my attention was the amazing graphics and life-like portrayal of the characters. The scenery was beautiful, and almost breathtaking.

However, after I watched the movie, I realized that there was so much more to it than what first meets the eye. The underlying kindness and genuine meaning of the story captivated my attention, and my heart.

You see, it is much more than just a magical story about a train ride to the North Pole, or even a story about Santa Claus.

It is really a story about faith that is lost, reawakened, and renewed.

This movie contains no religious imagery as we saw in The Grinch or Charlie Brown. It does not have any highly comical scenes like Elf.

It quotes no Scriptures, and never once does it mention the words God or Jesus. Yet, it is a movie that touches the spirits of young and old, and has a lesson in faith for all of us.

It is not only a journey to find the magic of Christmas, but a journey of faith, and the faith it takes to believe in the unseen.

At the beginning of the story, we see a little boy, struggling with letting go of his belief in Santa, and trying to force himself to believe that he does not exist.

He is torn between two truths: "Seeing is believing", or "Believing is seeing."

In the movie, when the Polar Express pulls up in front of the boys house, he wonders if what he is seeing is really true.

He sees the train in the snow as plain and vivid as the nose on his face. He sees and hears the conductor inviting him to board the train, and he plainly sees the other children peering through the windows, beckoning for him to get on.

But still, his heart doubts. Through influences from the media, parents and friends, his innocence had been stolen. His faith had been crushed. And the doubts in his mind were stronger than the deepest longings of his heart.

As a result, the little boy had all but convinced himself that Santa did not exist, so he struggled with what he thinks he sees, and wonders whether or not he should step outside of his comfort zone, and take that first step onto the train.

The little boy found himself in a place where many people find themselves every day -in a struggle between the seen, and the unseen; a struggle between doubt and faith; a struggle between believing, and not believing.

As the little boy weighs the "evidence" he can see, versus the lack of evidence in his mind, he hesitates on boarding the train. His own inhibitions, doubts, and lack of faith are standing in the way of him moving forward.

I found it so interesting that the conductor did not force the boy to get on - he merely extended the invitation - and then - he waited. He waited for the boy to determine whether or not he would let himself believe.
The boy had to choose for himself whether he would join the conductor on the journey, and he finally did decide to board the train. However, he really only boarded with his physical being, because in his spirit, he still was overcome with doubt.

Throughout his journey that snowy night, he continually questioned the existence of Santa and the North pole. He asked the other kids; he asked the 'ghost' on top of the train; he asked the conductor. Despite all the evidence he could see and everything he was told, he still doubted.

Unfortunately, this happens a lot in real life.  There are many people who claim to believe in the unseen Savior, but who do not truly believe with their heart, mind and soul. Wonderful people, who carry out the motions of being a good Christian - attending and serving in church, helping others, trying to be a good person - but who secretly, maybe even unknowingly, do not truly believe with child-like faith that the Christ is all He claims to be. 

People who have professed faith with their lips, but not their hearts. People who just simply cannot find the courage to push aside their doubts, and believe in what they have not seen. People just like the little boy in this movie.

I wonder if the reason that some people have a hard time truly believing is that they have not encountered Christ for themselves, in their own lives, consumed with always trying to weigh the evidence.

The little boy boarded the train, with unbelief and doubts, and he continued to doubt despite the evidence. However, once he experienced Santa for himself - then - he truly believed.

It was not until the boy encountered Santa first hand, for himself, that he could honestly say "I believe".

He finally accepted what he felt in his heart was true - despite what anyone else thought, how old he was, who agreed, or what the world had to say about it.

At the end of the movie, the conductor said something very meaningful to the boy. He said, “The most real things in the world are the things we can’t see.”

Being a Christian means believing in Christ - not because we see Him with our physical eyes, but because we feel Him in our hearts and see evidence of Him in our lives. Once we encounter Christ, our attitude is changed, and our faith renewed.

Once the little boy believed, his attitude changed, and he could even "hear" things that he had not heard before - like the sound of a jingle bell.

Our faith is exactly the same way. When we are doubting the true existence of Christ, or doubt whether He is involved in our lives, then we have a hard time seeing or hearing Him at all. 

Believing comes first. Seeing is the reward for believing.

John 20:29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (NIV)

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (NIV)

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