Saturday, February 11, 2017

Why I Would Be a Good Atheist

It is too bad, in a twisted way, because I would have made a good atheist. 

When I was a kid, I asked God a lot of questions, and when I wasn't sure God was listening, I directed my questions to the trees and to the open sky. A big question, and I'm not really sure why, 
was, "I didn't ask to be born, so why do I owe the universe, or other people, or God - anything??" I was genuinely puzzled, feeling a bit like a rat that has been dropped into a maze, expected to run here and there and try hard, find the meaning of life, whatever. 
What was the point?

I became fairly depressed at a young age, I think. I recall underlining verses in the Psalms at about age 9 or 10, verses like, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?" (22:1) and thinking YES! David gets it. THIS I can relate to. (I didn't realize the prophetic or Messianic meaning of the passage at the time, so can we leave that for now...thanks.)

As a younger child I trusted God completely, walking on the forest paths with my hand stretched up, literally feeling like I walked hand in hand with Him. He saw and appreciated the beautiful things I saw. He was real, and He loved me. He loved my neighbors that didn't know Him yet. He loved my grumpy bus driver. He loved my little brother. 
I'm not sure when the tough questions started, but I had many opportunities to consider them. I went to a Christian school, Sunday school, church, evening service, you name it. I heard all the Bible stories. I could tell you all the Bible stories, and their meanings too. Somewhere in there, I started asking:

If God could create all of life, why did some things die so fast, and others last longer than they wanted to?
If God knew Adam and Eve would sin, why did He bother with all the charade of warning them?
If God could do anything, how could He watch Cain kill his brother Abel in cold blood?
If God made the unshakable rules of the world, why did He have to send Jesus to die for all sin - couldn't there have been another way?? Something less painful, something less....bloody.
If following Jesus Christ is the only way to Heaven, shouldn't God have made it more obvious?
What about people who never got a chance to hear?
What about my baby sister who didn't live very long? My grandma who made it pretty clear she wanted nothing to do with God at all? 

And on and on. 
If the chapel speakers and pastors had known what was going through my brain...! I wished the questions would go away. I wanted to be whole, trusting, a believer, not a doubter. It seemed shaky ground. 

Around age 11 I had an experience when I was praying where I felt an amazing sense of peace. God was right there with me, and I felt His great presence and knew that He understood my questions and that it was ok to ask them.  I wanted to be baptized and show everyone that I was serious about following God and that there was no turning back for me. I was baptized soon after, and though I still felt the shaky ground, I also knew beyond a shadow of doubt that God existed, and if He existed, then He had to be who He said He was. If was who He said He was, then He would either answer my questions - or show me why they didn't matter. 

 As an older teen the big questions came back. I was lonely and misunderstood, like many teenagers. I felt like I was trying so hard, doing all the right things, but it didn't seem to matter. Nothing was good enough. Sin was still there; loneliness was still there, pain and questions remained. I kept up the Christian life, but underneath I was wondering, "Who is this "GOD" who expects me to know Him when He doesn't show himself?"

 Then there was Bible college. It wasn't very hard, because I knew everything. Or I thought I did. The course on minor prophets was fascinating, however. I read, and thought, realizing that these more obscure books had so many layers of meaning and so many treasures of truth and light. 

And the Book of JOB! I noticed that many people in the Bible had similar questions to mine. And God had an answer for each one of them that met their real need, which was interesting. He doesn't answer any questioner in the same way. He was gracious to one, He whispered to another. He thundered. He wrestled. He laughed...He argued...He put one or two in their place. But always different, as if He actually knew the person. And God challenged people! He gave Moses, Jacob, Job and others the privilege and the dignity of an actual discussion. He showed up.

In all the hubbub of modern life, there are many who think they know whether God does or does not exist, but few who will look into it beyond the latest meme or what a friend or professor said that seemed to make perfect sense. And so we make up our minds one way or the other, without looking very far ahead. Because one thing is certain; He either exists or he doesn't. And if He does exist, then everything He says about Himself and about us, is true too. If He doesn't exist, then there really is no purpose in any religion. If God is not there, religion is merely giving people a "program" of sorts, something to cling to when they don't feel safe.

I have realized I am one of those people Paul talks about in Romans 9:19:
"One of you will say to me, “Then why does God still blame us? Who can oppose what he wants to do?” But you are a mere human being. So who are you to talk back to God? Scripture says, “Can what is made say to the one who made it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ " 

When he wrote, "One of you will say...", he was thinking about me. Maybe about you, too.
I was so happy to read this verse and feel like I wasn't alone. Is it something to be proud of?
I suppose in the way of respecting that my mind wants to know.

Do we honestly think God is hoping we will go through life smiling, unthinking, like some sort of brainwashed cult followers? 
Read the Bible for a few minutes and it becomes obvious that is not the case.
So how did I get to today, where I understand the questions but no longer have to ask them (much) for myself? It has been an uphill journey. I will have to write more about that later. 
Suffice it to say that the reward of traveling ever uphill is a wider, farther perspective. I can see things from here that I couldn't before. I have made it further than I ever dreamed I would, and the view is pretty fantastic.

There is a lot more to say on this subject, but I have grown weary of writing and am at risk of becoming a bore. Perhaps I would have made a fine atheist. I am unbelievably grateful though, that I have gone quite the other direction.


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