I loved Halloween as a kid for many reasons: the costumes, the candy, and, of course, the Great Pumpkin. I’ve watched the classic “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” dozens of times, but no matter how much I’ve seen it, my heart still goes out to poor Linus, who spends the night in the pumpkin patch awaiting the arrival of the Great Pumpkin.
In case you grew up on the moon and have never seen this Peanuts’ masterpiece, let me bring you up to speed. Linus van Pelt has somehow confused his holiday traditions and believes that just as Santa makes his rounds every Christmas Eve, so the legendary Great Pumpkin visits children on Halloween night.
Unlike Santa, the Great Pumpkin doesn’t work from a naughty and nice list but instead evaluates the sincerity of one’s beliefs. According to Linus, each year the Great Pumpkin rises from the pumpkin patch that he deems to be the most sincere and flies off to deliver his toys.
Linus has the market cornered in sincerity. He begins his vigil in a pumpkin patch free of all hypocrisy but is soon ridiculed by his friends on their way to trick-or-treating. However, Sally Brown, who has the hots for Linus, agrees to wait with him to see the Great Pumpkin. The whole thing comes to a head when a mysterious, shadowy figure rises from the pumpkin patch, a figure Linus believes to be the Great Pumpkin himself, but who in fact turns out to be Snoopy.
You have to hand it to Linus. His faith never wavered. He believed with all of his heart in the existence of the Great Pumpkin. If faith were measured by the quantity and authenticity of one’s belief, Linus would surely have earned a place in the faith hall of fame.
But faith isn’t a matter of quantity. It’s a matter of direction. Linus looked like an idiot because he placed his faith in something that proved to be less than reliable.
I’ve done the same for years. Long before I began to follow God, I had plenty of faith. I’ve placed faith in my money, my job, my friends, my talent, my health, my education, my willpower and even in the goodness of my fellow man. Time and time again all of these have proven to be “Great Pumpkins” in my life, accompanied by much hype but ultimately disappointing.
I can have all the faith I want, but if it’s placed in the wrong thing, I’m in for a serious letdown. I actually believe I have much less faith now that I follow God. I have plenty of mystery and doubt, but what little faith I do have is devoted to a God who’s proved Himself reliable. Some days it’s easy to believe, while other days I feel like Linus waiting in the pumpkin patch for someone who others dismiss as fiction.
It’s a good thing Jesus said it doesn’t take much faith for God to do great things in our lives. In fact, Jesus said even if we just have the tiniest smidge of faith, God has room to work. The amount of faith is irrelevant. The object of our faith is everything.
I’m not a guy with a lot of certainty, but the few things I am certain of have proven themselves true time and time again. I am certain there is a God who loves me, that He created me for a purpose and despite my propensity for selfishness and narcissism, He offers me the most intimate of relationships. In the midst of that relationship, I’ve discovered that the object of my faith is, well, faithful.
Yes, I’ve discovered that God is reliable, but reliable for what? He’s certainly not reliable for giving me an easy life or even for answering all of my prayers the way I think He should. Some days I long for the Genie God or the Cosmic Vending Machine God. But what I have is a real God who relates to me as a real person.
That means He doesn’t show up on command. He shows up when I need Him. That means He doesn’t always give me what I think I want, but what is always for my ultimate good. That means He doesn’t stop loving me when I feel unlovable. It means that He’s willing to get His hands dirty to sort out my messy faith.
Most of all it means that God has way more faith in me than I do in Him and somehow, strangely, that increases my faith. I guess in the end, God is more like Linus than the Great Pumpkin, a starry eyed dreamer who believes in me even when no one else does.