When I was in elementary school I went to the mall with my friend and her mom and we ended up in a shoe store where I found the shoes of my 3rd grade dreams. Since I faithfully did my chores around the house, I tucked my hard earned cash into my rainbow velcro wallet and felt empowered to count out the dollars in exchange for my dream shoes. We likely hit the french fry place and walked around a bit more before heading home. When I walked in the door I was so excited to show my mom my dream shoes and tell her why purchasing them was the best decision in my 3rd grade world.
She hated them. She didn’t use the word “hate” since, well, moms don’t usually, but she let me know I’d be returning them, like within the hour. I was crushed. Now, before you judge my mom and her parenting, thinking how you would have let me keep the shoes or whatever, you must know two things. My mom was a model and did and does have a keen sense of fashion. And, two, I can still conjure up the pair of shoes in my memory and I assure you, they. were. hideous. We returned them.
That night I curled up in my antique sleigh bed, looking out at the full moon. I remember it being a bright moon, the picturesque kind of roundness and brightness usually the backdrop for Santa and his reindeer shooting across the sky. And I prayed. It’s so clear in my Sherlock mind palace as I type this. I prayed something like this as I looked up at the Santa Claus moon, “Dear God, if you are real then I believe those shoes will be sitting next to my bed in the morning. Amen.”
And, just like Santa Claus, God disappointed. I didn’t get what I wanted. The shoes were not bedside when I awoke and I remember wondering if God really loved me. In my kid head and heart, I was filtering my view of God and His love for me through a fictional character who gave me things I wanted based on my wish list and whether I behaved appropriately.
But what if God just loves us? What if God isn’t Santa Claus? What if He is real and His love for us isn’t based on performance, or if we pout or cry? What if He actually does see us when we’re sleeping and knows when we’re awake? What if we stopped spending billions of dollars during the holidays to convince others of a faulty, broken kind of conditional love and started spending time sharing God’s unconditional love, to everyone, naughty and nice?
Maybe you stopped believing in God around the same time you found out the truth about Santa Claus? I don’t know.
But what if God isn’t Santa Claus?
“What’s the price of a pet canary? Some loose change, right? And God cares what happens to it even more than you do. He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail – even numbering the hairs on your head! So don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk. You’re worth more than a million canaries.” – Jesus, Matthew 10:29-31, The Message