The Secret to Saving Tinkerbell

young-girl-1149701_1280You know how to keep Tinkerbell alive, don’t you?

Fairies die if people don’t believe in them so you must believe or “poof.” A crowd can revive a fairy, if you get them to clap for her and say they believe. The bigger the crowd, the faster she revives.

Jesus has nothing in common with Tinkerbell. He exists, full of power, unchanged, sovereign, strong to deliver, loving, full of mercy, entirely holy, Son of God whether my beliefs waver or not.

Phew, right? Who needs a god who relies on what I bring to the party for his own life? Especially when my level of belief can be affected by a stray remark from a coworker, a scary headline, or a rough patch of life.

So many of our idols work like Tinkerbell. They need adoring crowds, multitudes, and our constant attendance in order to pay off. False gods and slot machines have a relentless appetite for our quarters. That’s not how Jesus operates. He isn’t powered by our praise, nor is He deflated by our lapses.

Jesus is.

Abraham wavered. This isn’t my judgement of Abraham because I totally get it. He was afraid for his life in Egypt. In that moment, his faith in pyramids-798401_640God’s willingness or ability to protect him faltered in the face of the world-powerful Pharaoh and his army. So, he told a half-lie. His beautiful wife was only his sister. No need to hurt him to get to her. No, in fact, treat him well, as her brother.

Abraham (Abram still) failed both God and Sarai, but God remained strong and on His throne, which was above Pharaoh’s. He sent a plague on Pharaoh’s house that rattled enough cages to shake loose the truth. Sarai returned to husband and they were sent packing.

Where do you go when you’ve panicked, floundered, strayed from the faith that set you straight in the first place? You return to the first place. Which is what Abram does. I imagine it was a long silent trip while Sarai let God do the talking as the caravan made its way back to the place where Abram believed God’s promise to him. Too often, when we falter, others pay the price with us. Most of us have had at least one long, sobering sojourn back to the place of believing accompanied by silent victims recovering from the pain of our panicked choices.

There are long times of waiting between God’s promises and their realization. Long, dry, desert moments where bills need to be paid, nights are lonely, and other options to God’s way pop up like – well – like Internet pop ups. Faith can waver. God never does.

That’s our story, isn’t it? Not that we’ve never faltered. Not that we’ve never failed. But, that we follow a God whose name is Faithful and True. A God whose commitment to us never wavers or fails. His light never dims the way Tinkerbell’s does but then, He’s no fairy and our faith is no fairy tale.

This is always what we need to teach and proclaim to others – best not to sin, but when we do, God remains true and provides a way back if we acknowledge our sin. This is the long pole we carry across the high wire of faith – “best not to sin” on the one side and “He has provided a way of forgiveness” on the other.

Abram returned to that altar a changed man. A man who remembered that he served a God who provides. So, when he and his nephew come to splitting up their land, Abram displays his trust in God by letting Lot choose first. Faith, now, in God’s willingness and ability to protect his interests.

That’s God’s story with us. We falter but we can learn from our mistakes. We can grow. We can change. The same man who quaked in the halls of a Pharaoh will soon ride out against an army of kings and prevail. He’ll turn over a tenth of the spoils without hesitation. He’ll build another altar one day and lay on it his son.

So, you’ve had a lapse of faith. Welcome to this place we call “the church.” You’ll fit right in. Go back to the place you first believed. God’s not like Tinkerbell. He never missed a beat, even when you did. Jesus just always is.

The secret to saving Tinkerbell is to always travel with the crowds. This is the only way a Tinkerbell faith will survive. But the one who follows Jesus follows a God strong enough to help us stand, even when we walk alone.

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