Today I’m repeating a post originally published October 30, 2009. It’s the first of a five-part series of posts that I realized I wasn’t ready to write last fall. I’m ready now.
(This is the first part in a series. Be sure to read the rest of the series as I work to find answers to the questions: Two – Stuck Between Two Horses, Three – The Wrong God, Four – Stepping Stones and a Crossroads, Five – Of Simmering, Resting, and Labels, Six – He Is Not a Tame Lion, and Seven – Letters to the Wounded from the Wounded)
Exhausted from middle-of-the-night feedings and the summer-day grind of entertaining four young children, I fell into the hammock. The youngest two of my four kids had actually fallen asleep at the same time, while the other two were peacefully enjoying a movie… for the moment.
As I stared blearily through the leaves at the pale summer-blue sky, my thoughts began to swirl down their usual path, drifting like fall leaves.
“What if this is all there really is?” I thought. “What if the garbage I see in myself and the people around me doesn’t improve because it can’t? What if everything I’ve been taught about God and Jesus and things like progressive sanctification just isn’t true?”
And finally, after skirting it for months, the ultimate question: “What if there is no God?”
I turned the words over and over in my mind, like a child examining a strange rock. The idea was starkly unnerving. Everything I believed about everything started with a holy, just, good God who interacted with us and guided everything that happened. Without God, everything I believed just crumbled into dust.
But over the previous couple of years, I’d grown increasingly convinced that my system of thought and belief was flawed. I’d tried to remodel, but it seemed that whatever was wrong was threaded through the entire thing. The only way to do this right was to completely dismantle it, down to the ground, and then rebuild. Carefully. Thoughtfully. Only putting pieces back in that I was sure of.
I decided to let the question rise like bread dough for awhile. What would it mean to look at the world without God in it?
In the shower the next morning, as was my habit, I whispered, “Please God, I am so tired this morning…. Oh.” If God didn’t exist, there was no-one listening, no-one outside myself to direct my appeals for help or guidance.
As our van careened down the highway at 65 mph and someone cut right in front of us, I started to say, “Thank you God for protecting us from an accident” but caught myself. If there was no God, then it was just random chance that the other driver hadn’t caught the edge of my bumper and spun us around and over and into the guard rail. And no-one to thank.
Sitting in the dim echo room at the hospital a week or so later, I studied the black and white images of my daughter’s heart contorting on the screen. A brightly-lit ring hovered in the center behind several metal twisties: a mechanical heart valve standing in for the deformed valve she was born with. And I realized that I could no more believe complexity like that, even with all her defects, had just happened than I could look at a beautifully-designed room and believe it all fell into place without any help or fore-thought.
I had settled one thing: someone larger than I had created this world and all the living beings on it.
With a foundation begun, I now had a starting point. If there is a being out there larger than me, I must ask new questions. Does this being have anything to do with the world or with us now? Does this being want us to know anything about him/herself? If so, how are we supposed to find out? Does he/she expect anything of us? If so, what happens when we fail to meet those expectations?
…To be continued