Back when I was in college and the main motivating factor in my life was getting money and buying stuff (when I made my first million, I was going to buy a Mercedes with the vanity plate MILTKT) one of my favorite movies was Boiler Room. This 2000 movie about the excesses of the tech bubble is very much NSFW, but it was the debaucherous days of the new millennium, and I was 20 years old.
Anyway, there is a scene in the movie when all the new sales agents are called in for a pep talk given by a senior broker played by Ben Affleck. The five minute long, expletive heavy monologue covers everything from sales technique to Series 7 exam requirements to my favorite topic at the time, what kind of suit to buy. I’ve always remembered that part of his rant for the line “Act as if.” “Act as if you are the [expletive] president of this firm… Act as if, and to do that properly you have to at least look the part.”
As we enter a very brief season after the Epiphany (I know, last Sunday was the First Sunday of the season, but the Baptism of our Lord is a Feast unto itself, so don’t bother me), we find out that Jesus’ disciples have been acting as if. This Sunday, we’ll hear the ever familiar story of Jesus changing water into wine at a wedding in Cana. I’ll deal with that story more later in the week, but for now, I’m interested in how it ends.
“Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.” Did you catch that? Jesus’ disciples believed in him after this first sign. The verb is in the aorist tense, it is something that begins at a moment but lasts forever. We can reasonably assume that the beginning moment of their belief is here, after the water is turned into fine wine. Note what has already happened, however. Half a chapter ago, John the Baptist saw Jesus, and told his disciples, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes a way the sin of the world.” Andrew and the unnamed disciple of John the Baptist spent the day with him. Peter was convinced by Andrew that Jesus is the Messiah. Philip dropped everything when Jesus said “follow me” and though his friend Nathanael took some convincing, he declares Jesus the “Son of God” and the “King of Israel.”
These are the guys who join Jesus at the wedding feast. They’ve already come to know him, already had most of their suspicions confirmed, and yet they still seem to need to “act as if” for a little while more. It is only once they see him perform this great miracle that they truly come to believe.
All this to say that I get that faith in Jesus can be difficult. Sometimes, it takes a while to really get it. Sometimes, even for the most faithful disciples, there comes a time when doubt creeps in and we only manage to go through the motions for a while. When those times come, I encourage you to “act as if.” Continue to engage in the habits of faith. God has not left you even when he feels far away, but it might take you a bit of time to find him again. Stick with it. Act as if, and you’ll find him again.