Santa Clause is scary. Don’t believe me? Then grab your self a piping hot mug of coco, add a peppermint candy cane, and sit back while I tell you the tale of my son’s first Santa experience.
My son is almost 16 months old. If you have ever met my son you know that the kid does not know a stranger. It actually terrifies my wife and I. He will walk up to anyone, talk to anyone, let anyone hold him. He waves and says hi to everyone in the grocery store, and will gladly take food from them if they offer it up. Yes we are going to have a conversation about that when he’s old enough. The point is I’ve never seen my son scared of anyone.
My wife and I thought it was time for Jude to have his first picture with Santa Clause experience. For you naysayers out there who say the only difference between Santa and Satan is the order of the letters of their names. The ones who have already started praying for my child’s soul when he gets older because of the age-old, “If they lied to me about Santa how do I know that they didn’t lie to me about God” argument, I would ask that you please pause for a moment and click here for my stance on Santa Clause. Trust me I have thought long and hard about it.
It started out as a pretty good experience. We dressed him up nice. We went to the mall. We got in line. We picked which picture packet we wanted, and then we waited. The line wasn’t too bad, it was full of children young and old patiently waiting to see the jolly old fellow, who in my opinion was the most legit looking Santa Clause I’d ever seen. The beard was real. He was plump, but not so plump that I felt he was advocating obesity. He had a calm paternal aura radiating off of him that seemed to warm the hearts of all the children that he came in contact with, and the best part was Jude seemed really excited about meeting him. He would run up to the fence that separated us from Santa, point, laugh and run back to us. He would run around in circles saying, “Santa Ho Ho Ho” (which for the record is really cute).
It all kind of went down hill from there.
As we began to make the slow walk toward the regal throne of Saint Nick I felt a change come over my son. The grip of his tiny hand became tighter on my finger. It was at that point that a small voice in the back of my head said, “I don’t think this is going to go well.” Never the less I powered on. We had arrived. I awkwardly said hello to Santa Clause (I never know what to say to people who are dressed up as something else, you should see how awkward I get around the Chick Fil’ A cow). I then proceeded to sit Jude on his lap. It was then that a thought went through my young sons head that I can only assume went something like this, “HOLY CRAP THIS GUY IS REAL!” He was screaming before I even let go. I would like to pause here and remind every one of the scene.
We are in the middle of a crowded mall.
Everyone is happy, Christmas is in the air.
Every other child up to this point had happily sat on the lap of kindly old Saint Nick, taken their sucker, smiled, and went home.
My son is screaming at the top of his lungs, tears streaming down his face. Everyone within ear shot is looking at him. Some kids are pointing, some parents are frowning, and Aimee and I are awkwardly staring at our feet wondering when social services is going to show up for the home inspection.
In midst of it all, there sat Santa. He was as calm as could be. My son is screaming like the Taliban are water boarding him for government secrets, and he is simply holding him, and smiling, and patting his back telling him that it’s going to be ok.
There was a fleeting thought that went through my head that Santa might be deaf or perhaps he was a couple la’s short of a Fa la la la la. I don’t think that was the case. I know why Santa was so calm.
Santa knows that he is scary.
He understands that from far away he looks jolly and happy and safe; but up close he moves and he talks, he’s big and alive, and he smells like beef and cheese (yes that’s an Elf reference if you’re still reading you earned it).
For someone who has never met him up close and personally Santa can be very scary.
What could we do? I scooped my son up, made more awkward chit-chat with the big man, then my wife and I hurried away while Jude consoled himself with a pink sucker.
I wonder if this is what heaven is going to be like for us?
Christians like God. We will dress up really nice. Come to our buildings and stand in rows together singing about how awesome God is. We look at pictures of him and hear stories about him. Some of us dance around on stage and quote his words while the rest of us collectively clap because it’s so cute and refreshing. We will catch glimpses of him in our lives and we will point and laugh and talk and wonder about how awesome it’s going to be when we finally meet him for real.
It’s always been interesting to me though that the closer we get to our turn in line, the quieter we get. It seems that people who are close to meeting God don’t seem to have the same kind of arrogance that the people in the back of the line have.
When we begin that walk toward his throne it seems that the grip on the hands of our loved ones here on earth gets a little tighter. Not because we don’t want to meet him, but because he can be scary.
I wonder when I meet God if it’s going to be a lot like my son’s reaction to the larger than life being at the mall. I have a feeling it will be.
I think it will be because of how I react when I really come in contact with God now. Those rare moments when I’m really praying and really seeking his will, and life is not making sense, and I don’t know where to go or what to do, sometimes God shows up. When that happens I don’t dance around. I don’t clap or put on my nice clothes. I don’t quote him or spin around in circles or tell him what I want.
I cry. Sometimes physically, and sometimes mentally. I cry because he is bigger than I could ever imagine. He’s wonderful and terrible. Beautiful and terrifying. I can not do anything else but sit there and cry.
I have a feeling when I meet him face to face my reaction will be all the more pitiful, and he will do what he has done a thousand times before. Comfort me.
Because God knows that he is scary to those who have never truly met him before.