I have spent much of my life in a car driving to familiar destinations as well as exploring the great unknown on the open road. Recently I was musing why we as human beings are so willing, so ready to accept with much belief and conviction that cars will carry out their promised function – safe and efficient transportation. Most people are blind to the dangerous reality of transportation by car because (unless they have been in a traumatizing car accident) we really do not consider our belief in what is actually at stake when we drive to and fro. If we really ponder it, you and I are driving around in motored boxes next to millions of other odd looking motored boxes that could either collide into one another or fall apart at any given moment in time, like a nightmare waiting to happen. But in reality, we depend on automobiles because they work. But underneath that there is a deep seated belief.
The first car I ever truly owned was the infamous “Plum Palace,” known around the world as an endearing vehicle to all who have known its presence. In fact, my mechanic friend, who also happened to be my pastor, remarked, “The Plum Palace doesn’t run on gasoline, it runs on miracles.”
This only added to the legend of the Plum Palace and the magical fantasy in which I was living. My friend was commenting on the status of my battle-tested car and was surprised at how it was still running. His comment pointed to the truth, though: While I had relied on the Plum Palace reach many destinations, my faith was not in this car. The Plum Palace would one day die and on that day my belief would die with it. If you have ever owned a clunker holding on for its last breath, you might witness your faith waning. Your level of belief or faith in your car is hanging on by a thread based upon the condition of your vehicle. It seems that conditions and circumstances dictate everything.
This begs the question that transcends automobiles: What conditions dictate your belief? Is your belief in God conditional? We all are answering this question every day by how we live our lives because our beliefs dictate everything – who and what we believe in and why we believe.
Jesus remarked to a doubting Thomas “Because you have seen me you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” If Jesus is highlighting the distinguished position of believing without seeing, then we all are doubting Thomases, guilty of unbelief. We cry out to God for signs and answered prayers. We dare to ask, “Where are you?”
But He is right here.
In this present moment.
We place restrictions on our own beliefs, wanting to see the visible scars of Jesus in order to believe, to see the nail prints and not just take him at his word. Blame it on our humanness. Yet Jesus asks us to believe without prerequisites, without proof, without conditions. Have we missed the whole purpose of belief to begin with?
John writes throughout his gospel: “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned…Do not let your hearts be troubled- believe in God…But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” Belief is everything, according to the Bible. Sometimes we need to see the scars and feel His side, yet our belief should not hinge upon these experiences.
The belief we place in automobiles conveys a naive trust that they will work and function in such a way that guarantees our safety and convenience. We humans believe in anything that we can see, touch, hear and taste. Our physical senses confirm our belief and ultimately solidify our trust. This also to an unending list of other inanimate objects: ICloud, diving boards, chairs, airplanes, technology, skyscrapers, electronics, elevators, jungle gyms, tire swings, and more. We believe because of the experience of our physical senses, and trust that they will work. Even if we do not fully understand if or how something works, our physical experiences lead us to believe it to be true. It is only when one of these entities fails us that we question our belief. Our blind belief in these things is the true failure.
The question then becomes, if we so readily will believe in a list of inanimate objects, then why do so many struggle to believe in God? The God who is the ultimate Creator, the Author and Maker of the universe and of the minds and hands that build the entities listed above. Even though our physical senses speak and testify to the existence of God, we live in unbelief of the one who invented the senses. We are all trapped by our own conditions of belief, and that is exactly why we need a God who is far greater, bigger, fuller and wilder than any entity in which we have placed our belief.
My belief in the Plum Palace was not in the car itself, or even in the car’s manufacturer, but in the ultimate Manufacturer of Life. I ended up selling the Plum Palace to a family friend for much less than it was worth to me in sentimental value. Someone else now drives it around the streets of St. Louis, the car that still makes miracles come true one turn at a time. We will continue to fail by placing our belief and hope in things that will ultimately disappoint us. The true test of belief is who we return to when we realize our false hopes and distorted belief. The Plum Palace, although beloved, inevitably disappointed and failed me, like everything else in life. There is only one who never does. May we all learn to break away from our conditional, restricted faith into an abundant life where our belief is placed in God, the original Author of belief itself.