When I was a kid, I used to love taking walks in the winter, especially when the snow was on the ground. In the mountains of southern Oregon, the coldest days in the heart of winter left everything covered in white. The roads were a hard sheet of packed snow. Many days the sun would break through and warm things up just enough that there would be puddles along the side of the road. In the early morning on the way to school, these little frozen puddles were a game just waiting to be played. They were never more than a few inches deep. The chilling temperatures of the night before would leave them covered in a thin sheet of ice or, perhaps, even frozen completely through. That was the game.
I used to seek out these puddles along the way and try to guess if they were frozen solid enough to hold my weight. Finding one and making my guess, I would gingerly step on the ice, hoping it would hold. Often it held, but many times, much to my glee, it would almost hold and then crash away, dropping my foot with a splash. I never really wanted to get my foot wet, out there in the cold, but the thrill of either standing on solid ice or leaping to get my foot out before it soaked my shoe was much more than worth the risk. As I grew bigger, solid ice was harder to find, but my ability to discern what might hold and what might not also grew. Experience had taught me to read the signs and more accurately predict what could hold me and what could not.
Faith is kind of like that. In faith, there exists a tension between the unbelievable and the undeniable. I would never step onto the thin crust of a puddle I thought was deeper than my shoe top unless I had some strong assurance from puddles around it that it would hold. At first it might have seemed hard to believe that the temperature the night before was cold enough to freeze such a puddle so solid that I could stand on it. However, if I had experienced enough puddles along the way that had held me, I could conjure up enough courage to step onto that bigger, deeper puddle and hope it would hold. The idea that it could hold me may have seemed unbelievable but, with enough confidence to step on it and then see it hold, the unbelievable became undeniable. I would then encourage a friend or my sister to try it. If it were large enough, we might even see how many of us it would hold before breaking.
In the Gospel of John, the author tells us that he shares these miracle stories—he calls them signs—so that hearing of them we may believe that Jesus is the Son of God. The signs are stories of healing the sick and amazing tricks like turning water to wine or multiplying bread and fish to feed a crowd, even raising the dead. To us these stories seem utterly impossible—completely unbelievable. However, to John and to those who witnessed Jesus do these things and many others, these unbelievable feats became undeniable. They now stand as witnesses to us. They are standing on the frozen pond, deep enough to completely soak any who fall through, saying “Come on out!” They are thrilled not only to stand on the ice, but to run, jump, and skate around in the freedom of knowing it will not fall away under their feet. Are you willing to take the risk and trust the ice to hold you? That first step of faith is the hardest. After that, experience builds confidence, and faith slowly brings peace and freedom without fear.