September 7, 2011
The Great Pumpkin Dilemma
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is one of my favorite shows. When I was a child, before VCR’s, cable, and other magical technology, it aired once a year. If you were unlucky enough to miss your favorite show (The Wizard of Oz, The Grinch, Cinderella, etc.), your entire year was ruined. Our lives were constantly on the brink of disaster back then.
As a child (and probably after I learned the truth about Santa) Linus and his unquenchable belief in the Great Pumpkin seemed to me pathetic and naive. But as I grew, his staunch faith became praiseworthy, laudable even.
I had an experience a few weeks ago that reminded me of Linus and the Great Pumpkin and I wondered how many others have been in the same situation. The situation, although different for each of us, is similar in that it involves unwavering, unshakable faith in something or someone. It may be faith in God (whatever that means to you), but there are many other scenarios that come to mind.
Maybe you’re totally secure in a relationship; your trust in the person you’re involved with is so deep and solid, you rarely experience any doubts about the durability of that relationship. Maybe you embrace a political ideal that embodies all the attributes you believe are beneficial to society. Maybe you believe that the sign of the truly civilized lies in the fastidious care a woman takes of her feet. The list is as endless and unique as each of us. But there is something of Linus and his solid belief in the Great Pumpkin in all of them.
Faith in God is this situation for me. It’s unwavering and deep. It’s the foundation of all I do– my entire life. I don’t always understand God or myself and I don’t always behave the way I should or want to. But I always believe. And when I want to be with God in a special way I go to a little chapel near our home. It’s quiet and peaceful and some of my fondest memories live there. I believe that God is physically present in that chapel. I’ve never doubted it.
I had my Linus Experience in the chapel one night a few weeks ago. It was twilight and on the horizon I could see inky storm clouds gathering. I’m a little leery of storms since I had to walk home from school in one when I was in first grade. I had my little polka-dot umbrella open and I was so tiny the storm literally lifted me off the ground. It was capital T Traumatic.
Nobody else was in the chapel when I arrived; it was just me and God when the storm hit. It was a loud, violent storm. And I was alone in the chapel. Or was I? The faith I relied on all these years told me I wasn’t alone. But I felt alone. In that split second of fear, I found myself questioning the very thing that I had never doubted. And it shook me up.
Don’t get hung up on God here. The point is the faith in whatever it is you believe in and having a split second of fear that leads to doubt and makes you wonder in your gut if your faith is justified. And what you do with that doubt.
Even Linus experienced that fear and doubt. And it shook him too. For a moment. Then he took a deep breath, held on to his blanket and waited the rest of the night in the pumpkin patch.
Linus: [to Sally as she walks away with everyone else] Hey, aren’t you going to stay to greet the Great Pumpkin? Huh? It won’t be long now. If the Great Pumpkin comes, I’ll still put in a good word for you!
[realizes what he just said]
Linus: Good grief! I said “if”! I meant, “when” he comes! I’m doomed. One little slip like that could cause the Great Pumpkin to pass you by. Oh, Great Pumpkin, where are you?