Thursday, December 29, 2005
Do You Believe in the Tooth Fairy?
I swallowed my tooth. I was in the first grade and I swallowed my tooth. It was a front tooth and I was looking forward to putting it under my pillow for the Tooth Fairy and I was eating a peanut butter sandwich and I swallowed it. Very traumatic.
My mom was sweet about it. She said that the Tooth Fairy would understand if I wrote her a letter. So I did. It went something like this:
Deer TOOTH FAiRY I Ate MY TooTH. Sorry. CAN I STill geT Money? What do YOU dO WiTH all the TEETH?
The next morning there was a nickel under my pillow and a note in very beautiful, flowing tooth fairyish script:
Thank you for your letter. I know you take good care of your teeth and I am sorry you swallowed the tooth. Here is a little money for being a good boy. I collect the teeth and my tooth elves turn them into billiard balls.
the Tooth Fairy.
I loved the Tooth Fairy. She was so nice to me. I also loved the Easter Bunny, and the Sand Man, and Uncle Sam, and Santa Claus, and Jesus. Just because I had never seen any of them didn’t mean they didn’t exist. I knew they were real. (I even had a letter!)
The Sand Man was the first to go. Mom said if I pretended to be sleepy I could catch him. Never happened. I realized it was like the time she told me that I could catch birds by sprinkling salt on their tails. It kept me busy. It didn’t take long to figure out that Uncle Sam was a symbol, an Abe Lincoln in a colorful suit. Then the Easter Bunny hopped off to join him since I helped color the eggs, Mom hid them, and I saw her buy the baskets... Reluctantly, Santa was next. I didn’t want to give him up. But the elaborate evidence had too many holes in the logic. I was afraid to admit my parents played his role; then they would be off the hook for presents. Kids can be very practical sometimes.
At some point I began to wonder about Jesus. Perhaps the Holy Spirit was first, then Jesus. I hadn’t seen either of them as a speaker at school or on tv (except in movies where it was obvious that someone was just playing the part).
There were conversion events in my life. At thirteen. A renewal at fifteen. But there were periods when I wondered. After all, there are a lot of precedents that not all things magical truly exist.
This isn’t true in nonwestern cultures. In India there is a strong belief in the supernatural to the point where the pantheon of hindu deities is enormous. My two year stint in a yogic ashram taught me about Ganesha, and Hanuman, and Shiva, and especially Kali (she still makes me shudder... I’d rather not talk about it).
In indigenous peoples all over the world there is a strong belief in animism, reality is interwoven with the supernatural as a part of daily life.
Not so in western society. We are too sophisticated. We like things orderly and if we dabble in mysticism it is usually the trendy sort. You know, Madonna studies the Kabbala, or those who read Mother Earth News and eat only organic foods and buy lots of crystals and talk endlessly about Gaia. Trendy. Like smoking cigars a few years ago, or driving a Hummer. There is a political correctness view of mysticism that says that it’s all good and that if you want to worship something, anything, then you have the right to it (while at the same time it is a little skeptical of anything promoted by the male-oriented, male-dominated socieities of the past, such as chrisitanity).
But in general, we don’t want to believe in things that are supernatural, especially if it is serious and not very trendy.
I am a Christ Follower. I prefer that term to Christian as the label Christian is thrown at everything from Santa Claus to western society. Being a Christian for many folks is no more challenging that being a member of the Rotary Club. And for many it serves the same purpose. I am a Christ Follower. That means it costs me something. Something I gladly pay. It costs me... everything. All I have I give to Him.
It isn’t trendy. It means that I believe in the Word of God. If it is in the Bible, I have to accept it. That isn’t always a comfortable thing. But I want my faith to be bigger than me, to challenge me. Otherwise I may as well worship a Chia Pet.
According to the Bible the world is filled with the supernatural. (I don’t really like that word because it implies that there are things outside of nature, and if God made it, it is part of reality, it is natural.)
Take the Book of Job. It is filled with things that cannot be proven by science. Things that cannot be tested in a lab, or photographed by the Hubble telescope. In Job there are two scenes that take place in Heaven, a realm that is not to be found anywhere on the 197,000,000 square miles of our planet.
In Job there are heavenly beings. There is the Lord God almighty. There are angels. There is Satan. We are told that Satan roams the earth (like some sort of predator). Later the Lord speaks to Job, and to Eliphaz (Job’s best friend).
So why don’t we hear much about Satan anymore?
I think the answer is simple. We have turned him into Santa Claus. Satan doesn’t need to do much in our society. We do it for him, in this place where everything goes and it is all good. Now and then I think he (or one of his minions) simply whispers that the idea of the embodiment of evil, of a malevolent supernatural force that opposes all that is good, is absurd. That we don’t really believe in that stuff. No, as a society we swallow all sorts of pap that has to do with God within all things and that whether we worship Gaia or Ganesha or the image of Elvis in a Graham Cracker it is all good.
But there is a malevolent force to the universe and if we want to pretend it doesn’t exist, that is just fine with him. Just as surely as there is a negative as well as a positive charge to the flow of electricity, just as certainly as there are north and south magnetic poles, just as reliably as there are opposing atomic forces, there is a light and darkness that has nothing to do with photons.
I’ve seen it.
I have had experiences that make this dark reality clear to me. I have had experiences in my home that frightened me (though it wasn’t as bad to face as I had feared). But even without the experiences, the same part of me that recognizes the reality of the Lord tells me that there is something lurking in the dark.
I have had conversations with my kids about Santa Claus. I have talked about the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny. I explained their histories and why parents say that stuff to kids. And I have talked to them about God the Father, the Holy Spirit, Jesus, and Satan.
So the two points I want to make are this: First, as parents we need to be certain that the amusing little fables we tell our children do not lead them away from truth. Secondly, we need to accept all of the truth as well. That includes the acceptance of darkness in the world as well as light and what it costs to believe.