Are you watching “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” this year? For me, it’s actually a heartbreaking story, all the more powerful for not being tidied up at the end.
The last time I watched it (aka last year), the thing that stood out to me was Linus’ shock and horror when he realized he had said “if.” “If the Great Pumpkin comes…” he says. His hair stands on end, he claps a hand over his mouth, and shouts, “I mean ‘when he comes!’” Then he hunkers down in the pumpkin patch and says, “I’m doomed! One little slip like that can cause the Great Pumpkin to pass you by.”
One of the heartbreaking things to me about Linus’ faith in the Great Pumpkin is that he believes by force because he believes if he does not believe sincerely – the most sincerely of anyone – then the Great Pumpkin will pass him by. And for Linus, sincerity means squashing anything other than complete assurance that the Great Pumpkin will come. No ifs allowed.
Being forced to do something by someone else is bad enough, but still gives a level of internal autonomy ("That's not who I really am"), but how painful is it to watch people force themselves to be something other than who they are, other than who they were created to be, out of fear of what would happen if - the great if - they were truly seen and truly known.
I believe in a God who does not pass anyone by. Even those who doubt. Even those who do not believe at all. Belief is not a requirement for God’s love. I believe in a God who loves the actual, authentic human beings God has made, in all our doubts and uncertainties. I believe we are allowed to say “if” without fear of penalty or judgment.
And I believe that our sincerity shows when we share what we truly believe in our innermost heart, whatever that may be. It’s in starting from our sincere beliefs that we can be in an honest relationship with God and with one another. We do not ever need to fear rejection, even if – even when – we say “if.”