I am proof, Mister

Tonight I interviewed an atheist for an article I’m working on, and I found the conversation to be both enlightening and frustrating. It’s difficult to keep the objective journalist’s hat on when you’re listening to someone who rejects all religion as being “a brand of mental illness.” To each his own, but it’s hard not to take that as a put-down of my own mental capacities, being the spiritual person that I am.

He was telling me about raising his daughters, ages 15 and 20, to be atheists despite his wife’s Christian beliefs, which is the scope of my article (the challenges of raising children in one faith or another — or, I guess, raising them to be faithless — in a household where the parents have different spiritual beliefs).

Toward the end of the conversation he said, “If (someday) they find Jesus, that’s their life.” But he was quick to add, “If they come home and say, ‘I found Jesus,’ I’m gonna press ’em for evidence.”

Evidence? At first I thought, “Man, the evidence of God is all around us. How can he not see it!”

But then I thought, “Needing proof is soooo not what religion — what faith — is about.”

I mean, faith is a piece of cake when things are going your way, isn’t it? When all your dreams are lining up, you can point to the heavens and say “He did it.” When you get that promotion or new job, when your CT scan comes back clear, when your baby’s born healthy. In your heart, those blessings can really feel like “proof.” And I’m sure, in a way, they are.

But life continually teaches us that faith is not about proof. It’s not about getting the results that we desire, the things we think we deserve, the blessings we believe will make our lives happier or easier.

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that Chris and I have struggled to meet our mortgage and sell our house in South Carolina these last several months. And when the “Today Show” picked OUR HOUSE to be featured, out of the thousands and thousands on the market across the country, boy did that feel like an answered prayer. And when a woman in California saw it on TV and put an offer on it two days before Christmas, well that was just about all the proof we could handle that God had everything under control. Here was the evidence, astounding as it was, that He was looking out for us, and that our house was finally sold — on His time, not ours.

Our mortgage company approved the sale, the closing date was set, and paperwork was being signed ... all steps that had us sending up prayers of thankfulness, finally able to breathe a sigh of relief and look toward our future here in PA.


And then three days ago the woman pulled out of the deal. Her ex-husband had just taken her to court and the judge ruled that if she moved out of state, she’d lose custody of her son. And just like that, the turn of events we were sure was an act of God (I mean, the freakin’ “Today Show”?! Al Roker talking about our house, showing pictures to the world of Our Furniture??! You gotta be kidding me!) suddenly seemed like a dead-end.

It was the third time someone had put an offer on the house, only to withdraw it, and I’m not gonna lie: When I got the call from our Realtor, I hung up the phone and sobbed like a little girl whose puppy had died. I threw a great big pity party for myself that lasted most of the evening. (Seriously, you should’ve seen the size of the brownie sundae I ate that night. And I never turn to food in times of crisis. Wine? Yes. But food? No.)

But then I bucked up and realized that faith is faith. We either have it or we don’t, and God help us if we lose it. Luckily, I’m nowhere close to losing it.

So, our credit might land in the crapper, and our retirement funds might be nonexistent, and we might not be able to buy another house for seven years. But I promise you that at the end of the day, my last thoughts are ones of overwhelming thankfulness for all that we do have, and all that is promised to us in the future.

I still think the "Today Show" segment was an act of God. I still have faith that He has a plan for us, and for that house. Right now His plan might seem like it’s a hundred years and a thousand miles away from our plan, but I’m willing to bet that once it’s made clear to us, it will seem completely obvious.

Like proof.


Sheila said...

For someone who hasn't seen the inside of a church in quite some time, it's ironic how your blog has become my form of Sunday mass (Friday morning mass in this case). I'm pretty sure I've never thanked you for continuing to teach me about faith. So...thank you.

Robyn said...

I really don't mean to come across as preachy (and I know that's not what you meant Sheil) ... it just helps me to write down stuff like this as I'm processing it. But I'm happy if it helps someone else, too.
(And I haven't seen the inside of a church in ages, either. Much to my dismay...)

Kim said...

One of my close friends is a self-proclaimed atheist and I just feel sorry for him. He's a really great, successful person, but he spends a lot of time talking about all of the things he's afraid of. The biggest one being death. That would just be an exhausting way to live your life, I think.

I'm curious...who's this article for?

Robyn said...

The article is for Central Penn Parent magazine, a monthly that I've been picking up more and more freelance work for.

Heather said...

I'm sorry about the house, Robyn. I'll be prayin' for ya (take that Mr. Atheist). I also feel your pain. The house Mike has in Pontiac is still on the market. We're lucky to have renters. Is that something you could do? Mike and I would certainly help out in selecting a renter and spying on them to make sure they're not messing the place up or anything!

Morgan Bonner said...

Kim - since you're Robyn's friend, you obviously have to be cool. However, just so you know telling an Atheist you feel sorry for them is the equivalent of Robyn being told a belief in God is a form of mental illness. It is incredibly insulting and arrogant on both counts, since no one can know the absolute truth. As for the post in question, I disagree with the premiss but I am glad my pal Robyn can keep her journalist hat on and respect the views of a non-believer in this manner. In my experience, Atheists are the last group left that it's acceptable to discriminate against out in the open. My hope is that I will live to see the day that is no longer the case.

Kim said...

Morgan --

Sorry to offend. You're right. I should have chosen my words better. I just think that this friend of mine would be a bit more carefree if he had more faith in his life.

I certainly don't discriminate against atheists, but from now on I should probably leave Robyn to the editorializing.

Robyn said...

Kim - I understood what you meant, and I tend to agree.

Morgan - I wondered if you'd weigh in on this one. I hope that it is within the realm of respecting your beliefs to say that I'm praying for you and your growing family.... :)

Lyn said...

atheist or not, I think everyone can at least agree that there are things out there that they know nothing about...some might call it God, some might call it the universe, some might call it life. In the end, however, I think everyone should be free to believe what they believe when they believe it. I pray for people all the time but can remember a time when I was offended if someone said they were praying for me. I have to agree with Morgan on this one....pray if you want, but don't tell the atheist that you are doing it...it just seems a little holier than thou...know what i mean?

Robyn said...

Lyn - I agree with your 'live and let live' attitude, but I disagree with you saying that me telling someone I'm praying for them -- regardless of their personal beliefs -- is 'holier than thou.' If I'd said "Morgan, I'm praying that you be spared from the eternal flames of hell for not believing in the God that I believe in..." then yeah, that would be holier than thou. But God, to me, is the purest form of love. When I go to Him in prayer I do so to express my love for those I care about, and to seek His love in my life and in others' lives. Me praying for God to bless the life that Morgan leads, the marriage he has with Allison, the baby boy they're going to welcome into the world in a few months, even when I pray that they one day might feel the same love I do for God ... I do so because I love them. Not because I think I'm better than them.

And anyway, if Morgan doesn't believe in God, doesn't he basically think I'm talking to myself when I'm "praying." :) If so, how could he be insulted? I could, however, see him chuckling at me behind my back about it ... :)

Boy, when I write about my faith I really stir things up. I'm not gonna stop, though. It's too big a part of who I am.

Peace and love,

Lyn said...

Faith is definitely a "stirrer-upper"! I didn't mean to imply that you, in particular, were being holier than thou...I was trying to agree with Morgan's analogy of saying that you feel sorry for the atheist is equivalent to the atheist telling you that believing in God is a form of mental illness....I did, at one time, consider myself an atheist and would often feel frustrated with people who would say, or at least I would perceive they were saying "I'll pray to the God that you don't believe in to help you change..." Now that I pray for everyone all the time, I understand!

I guess I projected my own issues out into the conversation....I'm sure my husband would tell you how often I do that :)

I love ya, sis, and am glad to be able to have these types of real conversations!

Heather said...

I have always been a believer, and to me faith is all in a feeling. You either have it or you don't. Thank you for reminding me of the proof all around. I haven't stepped foot in a church in years but, I am okay with that, too me my relationship with God is a personal one, and these days we are getting along great!