Going through an old photo book the other day I came across a picture of my daughter Samantha shortly after she lost her first baby tooth. She was 8 years old, much older than her other friends when they began losing their teeth. So it was a pretty big day in our house when finally that first one came loose. She proudly showed off the new hole in her mouth. After her victory romp through the house she quickly put the tooth in a bag and shoved it under her pillow in anticipation of the long awaited tooth fairy.
A couple of hours went by and she came to join me tooth in hand as I was sitting on our swing outside. “Mamma” she said, “Do you think the tooth fairy will give me 20 bucks?” I nearly choked on my water. “Um no, mantha”, I said, “I am pretty sure the tooth fairy is not going to give you 20 bucks for your tooth.”
We swung for a little longer and then she said, “Mamma, what if I don’t want to sell my tooth. What if I want to keep it.” “Why would you want to keep it?’ “Because, I have had it since I was 5 months old. And we have a lot of memories together. If I don’t have my tooth anymore how will I remember my younger days? Besides I’ve never even seen this tooth fairy.”
“Mantha,” I said, “you don’t need your tooth to remember. You have to trust me and have faith that those memories will be there with or without your tooth.”
She looked at me skeptically for a minute before she said, “Well it’s my tooth.”
And as I really couldn’t argue with that, she and her tooth went back inside.
Having faith when the object of our faithfulness is right there in front of us is a whole lot easier than believing in something we cannot see. When things are no longer within our sight it becomes difficult to have faith they are still there. This kind of thinking can lead us to believe that the only way we can know God is real is when we see him or we feel him. As if faith is only about that which we can touch or see or feel. As if as long as we feel it, then God exists.
The truth is of course that often when faith becomes most real is during those times when God feels far from us. When the very breath is taken from our chest. When we are angry or disappointed. When we are tired of trying. When we don’t know where to turn or what to do next. When we are literally blinded by the circumstances of this life.
That is when we truly begin to live by faith not by sight….That is where faith becomes real. When we learn to trust God to restore us and help us to once again be made whole even if we can’t see him doing so. A great old protestant hymn says it best.
We walk by faith, and not by sight;
No gracious words we hear
From him who spake as man ne’er spake;
But we believe him near.
We may not touch his hands and side,
Nor follow where he trod;
But in his promise we rejoice,
And cry, “My Lord and God!”
Help then, O Lord, our unbelief;
And may our faith abound,
To call on thee when thou art near,
And seek where thou art found:
That, when our life of faith is done,
In realms of clearer light
We may behold thee as thou art,
With full and endless sight.
Let us Pray. God how we long to know you. We confess though that at times the space between us seems impossible to overcome. Help our faith to so abound that we might see you and experience the peace that comes with being in the fullness of your presence. Amen.