I have a number of friends who are atheists.
Please let me start by saying I am not judging, blaming, or otherwise being nasty to you.
If I hadn’t run into the arms of a God who refused to let me go no matter how much I screamed and protested that it wasn’t fair and that I wanted to quit living; if I hadn’t been shown a better understanding of how life works; if I was anything different than who I am, I would be in the same place you are.
I understand your bitterness.
I understand your pain.
I understand that you have been abandoned.
I was bitter too.
I was hurt too.
I was abandoned too.
My ‘fall from grace’ as some have termed it was different, in that I left the church and found God and myself together. People call me wicked for not attending church every Sunday and they can’t see that I do God’s business every time I tend my houseplants, every time I hug someone, every time I offer a bit of myself to help someone who needs me. They call me a luke-warm follower for not talking about God in everything I do. They call me weak for not standing up to the crowds and pouring holy words down the throats of unwilling and incapable listeners.
I do not think I am weak to refuse to burn the ones who need my love and who want my love. I am called to bring light to dark places and if I can do that by making a friend laugh when otherwise they might not have, that is good.
I am called to bring light to dark places and if I can do that by smiling at a woman in the grocery store and giving her a sense that maybe there is a little sunshine in the world still, that is good.
I am called to bring light to dark places and if I can do that by being a reason for you to keeping holding onto life, that is good.
I am called to bring light to dark places, not to make them darker.
And that’s what I keep see happening. I keep seeing people leaving the churches and leaving God because it hurts too much; because God offers grace and love and healing and forgiveness, and the church puts rules and conditions and terms of service on it. God does not make His love unattainable, we do. We give you a bullet point list of things to do and we might as well have just given you the bullet. We leave you in the same struggles you were in before we showed up. We promise that prayer will make things better and – here’s the thing – sometimes it does. But more often than not, praying over a broken leg is not going to magically heal it or make the pain go away. More often than not, I feel like prayer is a band-aid to get out of the hard work, the messy stuff, the diving in and getting our hands dirty. We say that you must truly believe and you will be saved, and we’re so insecure that we don’t even know what that means. We refuse to allow mistakes because once you’re saved you shouldn’t make mistakes and we forget that we’re all humans and that sometimes we have to learn by running into things. We act as if grace is a fragile thing. We get angry about things that make us uncomfortable and we get angry at people who make us uncomfortable. We tell you to pray a prayer, pat you on the head, give you a nice shiny new Bible, and tell you all will be well.
And when it isn’t well, when the monsters inside your head that are driving you insane come back, when the voice that always says “you’re not good enough” comes back, when the pain comes back, when the ache comes back…
So often, we’re gone.
And you’re left alone again.
So no, darling, I do not fault you.
We are given the great gift of being the hands and feet of a loving God and we are absent and failing. And if we are His hands and His hands are gone when you reached out clutching, freezing fingers for them, I do not fault you in the slightest for believing that there is no God.
I would feel the same way.
I did feel the same way.
And so I will say, “I’m thinking of you”.
I will say, “Are you okay today?”
I will say, “Hey, friend, I thought of you, how are you doing?”
I will love you.
I will care for you.
And it’s okay if that’s all I ever do because I don’t know what the plan is and I don’t make the rules and I don’t have to be anything more or less than who I am. I am loved. And I will love.
I will love you.
I will stand beside you.
You are not alone.
~Love, Butterfly Emergent~