Saturday, June 22, 2013

why I am not an atheist, part 4

A common human paradox is that the more accepting a person is ideologically, the more of an elitist he is, but the bigot tends to be the person who has the heart of gold. I knew a man who would say things that would make Rush Limbaugh blush, but he and his wife shared many friendly and fun meals at their kitchen table with a radically liberal college professor and a Black man. I know another man who is so very cocerned about universal justice. Every morning he wakes up in dismay at all the travesties perpetrated by the United States. But he himself is quite wealthy, and lives in a large house by himself. As far as I know, he has never shared anything with anybody, especially not some ignorant red neck.

Abraham Lincoln was an exception to this. Despite his amazing determination to bring justice to a despised people, Lincoln loved the company of any person of every type with whom he had contact, as that person was willing to accept his friendship. I believe more books have been written about Abraham Lincoln than any other person. To date there have been over 16,000 of his biographies published. And his biographies are read by people of every country. I have a friend who visited Burma and found a biography of Lincoln in a home where he stayed. I am one of Lincoln’s many readers. Like so many others, I am so drawn to Lincoln because of this god-like quality of his. 

If I am to have any chance with God, I need Him to be Someone who really likes me, despite what I am. I do not have the qualities that attract. I am short. I’m sort of ugly and sort of old. I walk funny. I'm edgy. I’m an introvert, which means I think a lot about myself. 

I get pretty emotional when I read the story of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman. Like myself, this woman did not have a lot going for her. She was of a despised people. Her personal life was a mess. She was a poor woman in the first century.
But the Lord Jesus talked with her just like she was a real human being. Certain things that He said sunk in, and she believed in Him. She had come to a well to draw water and then she forgot what she was doing and left her water pot because she was so excited to run back to town to tell everybody, “Come see the man who told me all that I ever did.” (I’m sure the people in town already knew everything she had ever done as she had lived a scandalous, and thus interesting, life.)

How did the Lord Jesus react? When His disciples came to bring Him some lunch, He wasn’t hungry.  “I have food to eat that you don’t know about,” He told them.

When I am in the middle writing and it’s going well, food is not on my mind. I’m too happy to eat. I’m accomplishing what I really like to accomplish. After talking with this "unattractive" woman, the Lord Jesus was too happy to eat.

I wish I could just hang out with Abraham Lincoln. He loved to talk, so I would just listen and I would let him know by my laughter how much I liked being with him. Would I like to hang out with the Lord Jesus? It sounds scary. He’s the Son of God. I do know that if there’s anyone I’d like to hang out with, it would be someone like Abraham Lincoln who was someone like the Lord Jesus. The idea of life after death does not attract me. I don’t want to live forever. I didn’t need a play of Jean-Paul Sarte to teach me that. But I sure like how the Lord Jesus was so excited about the connection he made with the Samaritan woman. I think it means He would be excited about being with me--just with me, though I can’t understand how that will work with so many others also being His friends.

Regardless, I do like what I see in Jesus, so I’m hopeful. Which is another reason why I am not an atheist.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

why I am not an athiest, part 3

“I’m putting all of the burden on Jerry, I’m not blaming you,” said my boss. “He’s the one who did not carry through on what I told you both to do.”

My new job came with a whole lot of stress. Besides coming into it with the insecurity of having just gotten fired from my last job of 32 years; without any training or mentoring, I’m using an entirely different set of skills. But it’s been even tougher going from being management to being managed.

My intent is always to respond precisely, quickly and thoughtfully to whatever my boss tells me to do. Sometimes that works out. My new job uses more of my God given abilities. But most days I come home from work frustrated with what went wrong, and most mornings I wake up with a sense of dread wondering what will happen next.

On my older son’s advice, I eat an avocado every day, and I faithfully take drops from a “herbal dietary supplement” that promises to be a “calming focus aid.”  Maybe this has helped a little bit. But to be told by my boss, “All the burden is on Jerry”—now that helped! In an instant the tightness in my throat disappeared,  and I could literally feel the knot on my stomach untie itself.

Which is my third reason I am not an atheist. There is no way I can bear to bear my own burdens.

About ten years ago I went to the funeral of the husband of a co-worker. For years I had listened to this co-worker express humorous contempt for her husband. One day I said to her, tongue in cheek, “Tell me one thing good about Edmund.

Suddenly the amusement was gone from her face. “You don’t know what you are asking,” she said and she then proceeded to tell me incident after incident of some really rotten things that Edmund had done.

Which was confusing. Whenever Edmund would come in to work to see his wife, I could see she was pleased to see him. She always had a smart remark for him and he was always amused. I could see he was proud of his wife and then at his funeral, she was truly sorrowful.

At his funeral, the pastor read the poem, Invictus:  
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul. 
William Ernest Henley
I laughed. My wife gave me a sharp nudge. Edmund was a nice enough guy. Whether she liked it or not, his wife loved him. I knew several of his kids, they loved him too. But he was a screw up. He was not the master of his fate. He was not courageous. He was not defiantly true to himself. He was just a good ol’ boy. He was just Edmund. And he fell way short of what he should be, just like me.
Last night I was reading in Isaiah 53: “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him smitten by God, and afflicted. He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace and with His stripes, we are healed.”
In John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian comes to the cross when the burden he was bearing, “loosed from his shoulders, and fell from his back, and began to tumble and so continued to do, till it came to the mouth of the sepulcher, where it fell in, and he saw it no more. Then was Christian glad…But he stood a while to look and wonder, for it was very surprising to him that the sight of the Cross should thus ease him of his burden.
While writing this blog this morning, I am feeling bad for Jerry, my new friend from work who my boss says he’s putting the whole burden on. I wish I could do something for him. I wish I could come to his defense. But I am so relieved to have my burden from work transferred to someone else.
But of course my work burden is only a small part of the burden I’ve been accumulating for about 59 years now. And just because I’m not feeling the burden at this moment , does not mean it is not there. Everyone who has known me can be my accuser.
I try not to think of bad things. I rarely read the crime section of the newspaper and I almost never watch the news. So only on occasion do I think of the crucifixion of Jesus on the cross, for I like to think the best of everybody.  Maybe if I think well of a person, maybe that person will reciprocate and think well of me. The cross is so sad for it shows everybody involved behaving so bad. But like Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress, I am so surprised (and shocked) at how happy I feel when I think about it. The cross tells me that my burden was transferred over to Someone else.
At my funeral I’m hoping the preacher will not be too honest about me. But if the preacher feels so compelled, instead of Invictus, I would just as soon he read the words of the Apostle Paul, “Be reconciled to God. For our sake, God made Him (Jesus) to be the sin offering (the burden bearer) so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” Amazing!
If an atheist is honest, as I believe is the intention of most atheists, I can’t imagine how he can live accepting full responsibility for his own behavior and the burden of all its consequences.  I’m no where near strong enough. I had to have Someone who could take over my burden.