I Was an Atheist

I remember when I was a teenager, riding in the car with my mom and asking her, “if there’s a God, then why do mothers with young children die of cancer?” Her response was quite typical. I still hear people say it to this day. God needed her. He had a different plan for her. We just need to trust Him. Ummmm, nope. I was not OK with that. What kind of “good” God kills mothers who are still needed by their children? From that time on I became a loud advocate for evolution and there being no God.

Fast forward about 5 years and a friend I had gone to school with became one of those Bible thumping new Christians. This particular friend and I had established a friendship based on our enjoyment of debating things with each other. We’d argue the opposite of a fact just for the joy of the debate. So she sunk in her heels, determined to convince me there was a God. I joyfully sunk in my heels to convince her she’s a nut.

I flung out my first argument; the one that usually stopped these zealots in their tracks. If there’s a God, explain dinosaurs. She countered with “tohu-wa-bohu.” It may not have been the exact right answer, but it opened the door to a concept. Most of us are familiar with the beginning of Genesis: Day 1 He created light, Day 2 He created the sky, Day 3 He commanded the waters to gather and pool and commanded dry land to appear. He finished the day with vegetation. Day 4 Light bearers – the sun, moon and stars Day 5 was for sea creatures and birds. Day 6 animals on earth were created and then us humans. Of course, Day 7 – rest. The concept she introduced was that where we read Day, we hear 24 hour period – but that wasn’t necessarily the case. The time in between each of these severely summarized activities could have been what we now define as thousands of years. I was a little surprised. Normally when I asked people about the dinosaurs I would get the typical reply of, “we don’t understand it, we just have to have faith.” Not exactly what I’d call a convincing argument. It’s not like I’m a super science junky, so I had to admit to myself (though I certainly wouldn’t admit it to her at this point!), that this concept couldn’t be immediately dismissed unless I was willing to do more research. It also meant this side of my debate had to be set aside. On to the next point!

I brought out the big gun. The one that had convinced me there could be no God. Why are moms and dads with small children dying? Her answer changed everything for me. God isn’t killing the moms and dads. He’s not killing the babies. He’s not killing anyone. He doesn’t need them in heaven more than we need them here. If He had a choice in the matter you’d have your mama and daddy well into your (and their) hundreds. Remember Day 6? When God created us humans? Promptly after creating us he handed over the earth to us to manage and have authority over. With the one critical instruction. Don’t eat the apple. Spoiler alert – they ate the apple. Fools. When they ate that apple they handed over the management and authority of the earth to Satan. That decision killed their Spirits. Their bodies stayed alive, though died much sooner than they should have, but their Spirits died with that bite. Then they had children. With dead Spirits. And the humans multiplied. With dead Spirits. It’s that dead Spirit that causes some of us to feel like there’s something more to life and we’re missing it somehow. It’s that dead Spirit that makes us want more purpose to our lives. It’s that dead Spirit that causes some people to make awful choices, like drink and drive and kill mothers of young children. Most of us try to be the best we can be, but still may end up feeling a bit of a void inside of ourselves. That dead Spirit can be described as selfishness, greed, anger, jealousy – things we tend to experience and sometimes act upon, even if mostly we want to be good people. So what do we do about it?

I’m gonna take you on a bit of a more relatable (?) story. In a land far, far away, many centuries ago, is a young King and Queen. One day they made a decision that broke the most precious decree in all the Kingdom and they were kicked out of their own Kingdom. They ran away and hid in the foreign countryside, hungry, tired, and poor as peasants. Eventually they scratched away at life and had themselves a pathetic little hovel of a home and they had children. The King and Queen worked themselves to the bone just to keep food on the table, they didn’t even have the energy to wash the children or teach them to read. Those children, even though they had royal blood in their veins, looked and acted like the poorest of the slum children. The King and Queen never told their children they were little Princes and Princesses; they were too ashamed to have to explain their mistake and why they had to live like peasants now. A couple hundred years go by and each generation that royal family continued to live in poverty. The government in their Kingdom did research and discovered this incredible moment when the King and Queen fled. That Kingdom was in chaos. There were uprisings and revolts. They thought maybe if they could find and bring back the royal family they could have a revolution and the Kingdom could thrive again. They located the descendants of that King and Queen. They sent them an e-mail, asking them to come back to their Kingdom to rule it. But those descendants thought it was a spam e-mail and deleted it. They tried to call, but those descendants didn’t recognize the number and ignored the call, assuming it was telemarketers. Then one day they signed up for Ancestry DNA. Holy crap! They discovered they were actually royalty, with a Kingdom they could step up and take authority over. They hopped on a flight and flew to that Kingdom. They knocked on the door to the Palace and when it was answered they said, we are the King and Queen, we’ve come to take our throne. And that Kingdom was so happy. They welcomed them and there was celebrating in the streets. That King and Queen took their throne, but they’d still grown up desperately poor. They didn’t know how to talk like royalty, dress like royalty or even think like royalty. So now, even though they were returned to their rightful place, their rightful family, sometimes they still behaved like those poor people they used to be. Each year they got a little more polished, made a few less mistakes but sometimes that past was still visible on them.

Just like in the story, if we aren’t born again, we’re running around thinking we belong to the wrong family. Heck, most of the people we know are part of it too. We may not even realize there is another family we can choose to be part of. Then we learn about God’s family. We learn that’s where we actually belong. But we still have to choose. We’re adults; nobody can force us to leave our family and join with God’s family if we don’t want to. Also, just like in that family, you may know some Christians who don’t behave like you think a Christian should. But that’s because they grew up in one family and they’re still learning to behave in a way that lines up with their new family. And each person’s going to do that differently. Some might embrace it and you see a lot of immediate changes. Some people might “try it on” but run back and forth between their old selves and new selves. And finally, just like in my story, you are being sought out, but you might not be hearing. You might not be recognizing the message being sent to you. Here’s one of those messages – YOU are meant to be in God’s family. Now that you know that, it’s your choice whether you do or not. I chose to claim my place in God’s family. I might miss it sometimes and you might see the “old” me (perhaps more often then I’d like), but I’m working on it.

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