I need to be upfront: I don't have this completely worked out. I'm still waiting for the balloon to show up.
My 5-year-old son, Holland, is a constantly-moving, constantly thinking ball of passionate energy, and a strong candidate for the "faith like a child" poster boy. He is a Bible-teaching mom's dream: completely willing to let the mundane to the extraordinary be related to his faith, what God says is true, and all that God has in store for him. I was feeling pretty good about teaching him to grow his faith when in an instant God used his faith to put mine in its place.
Ava (8) and I tagged along with Holland to a birthday party recently, where upon leaving the kids were delighted with party favors and balloons. Balloons! The cheapest and most rewarding form of entertainment for kids. And these were not just any balloons, but balloons filled with helium despite the world-wide helium shortage (oddly, a real deal affecting the floating quotient of balloons everywhere). The thrill! The excitement! The anxiety for this mom ... because one loose grip on that ribbon and that balloon is a goner.
Sure enough. From inside our house I heard my daughter's shriek. My first reaction was to be mildly irritated by the drama because really, it is JUST a balloon. But by the time I made it outside her heartbreak was evident and her brother was feeling every ounce of her pain. When I opened my mouth to remind her I told her to hold on to the ribbon, Holland had already taken center stage and was declaring that the LORD would return her balloon. He looked to me for back-up and all I could do was back myself in a corner.
Here's the thing: I spend my days making bold statements about the faithfulness of God. I remind myself and others that the same God who parted the Red Sea, who made sun stand still, who turned an appetizer of fishes and loaves into a feast, will meet my needs, will deliver the enslaved, will heal bodies and transform lives. But when Holland declared the Lord would return the balloon my first instinct was to prepare him for disappointment by explaining to him the molecular structure of helium.
For a good two hours Holland cried over Ava's broken heart and prayed for God to return the balloon. I was struck mute, not so much because I was impressed with Holland's response, but because I was very unimpressed with my own. Did I believe God could return the balloon? I did. But did I believe he WOULD return the balloon? I didn't.
In the space of one afternoon, with a balloon and a boy, God smacked me right in the middle of my beliefs by pointing out the chasm between what I believe God can do and what I believe God will do. Can vs. will. Doesn't seem like much of a difference, but it's probably the biggest small shift in my faith journey for quite some time. If I believe God can do something, but won't, then I'm actually believing He is intentionally withholding blessings He has already declared to be mine, just for the sport of it. But that's not the God of the Bible or the God I have experienced. Yet, in an effort to avoid disappointment, it seems I have dumbed-down my own faith level to fit into a box that is realistic and predictable instead of supernatural and miraculous.
But here is something for all of us to grasp: if it isn't faith for a miracle, it isn't faith. If it isn't faith for God to return the balloon, for God to do something that is not humanly, naturally possible, then it likely boils down to just wishing something is different than it is. So, I'm believing for balloons to show up, literally and figuratively. I'm taking the risks of looking foolish by believing that God not only can, but He will.
What about you? Do you have any "balloons" you need God to return? We are in this together. I'm praying for you!