Practical Atheism

randomlychad  —  September 18, 2012 — 2 Comments

I’m an adult child of divorce. It’s a part of my story. A large part. If you are familiar with the New Testament, you know the story of Jesus’s wilderness sojourn, and subsequent testing. What did Satan tell him? “If you are the son of God…”

He went after Jesus’s identity. He does the same still. For a child, especially as I was–an adolescent, entering high school–a divorce does much the same: strikes at the core of who one is. I was already struggling, casting about for answers, wondering who I was, when the divorce hammer fell.

As dysunctional as my family of origin was, it was my family, and as Fiona Apple sings it was “all I ever knew of love.” Tolstoy says that all unhappy families are dissimilar; even so, it was my unhappiness–it was a known commodity.

The coup de grace came from a family member who lobbed this bon mot: “It’s always the kids’ fault” into the powder keg.

As if such things never go “Boom!”

The net effect of that explosion was that Satan played my heartstrings like a harpsichord. He had me believing that I was alone, that life was up to me.

I had to take care of myself.

This is a terrible leitmotif to carry into life–let alone a marriage–because it is so isolating. It is bound to leave one, or both, partners feeling like they are entirely unnecessary to the union. “You don’t need me.”

It is a terrible, terrible lie, and is merely another assault on one’s identity. In my case, even coming to the Lord at almost nineteen, it meant that I lived a kind of practical atheism. God had saved me, but I was on my own, adrift, free to live as I pleased. It meant, really, that God was the same kind of Father as my own dad: distant and uninvolved.

Such a lie! And yet my childhood, and my parents’ divorce, set me up for it. Yet I prayed, sought him, and.. didn’t seem to have the same kind of victories I saw in others.

Didn’t seem to have the same depth of relationship. I got jealous, and shut down even more.

The plain fact is that God had been trying to break through for years, but I didn’t hear it–because I didn’t believe I could! That he didn’t, or wouldn’t, speak to me. I belived he was obligated to save me, because he said so…and that was about all.

In the midst of this struggle, I read a book–a well-intentioned, well-researched book–Decision Making & the Will of God, that essentially confirmed my core convictions: that God is not a personal god, and as such has given us all we need in his book, the Bible. Nowhere in its pages did I glean any notion of God desiring a relationship with me. To my soul, it was akin to me saying to my kids: “Here’s a book telling you everything you need to know about life, and me. Why do you want me to speak to you–it’s all written down!” Where is the relationship, the surrender, the trust, the faith in this?

It is just served to confirm what I already believed: God was sterile, distant, cold, uninvolved.

Because, in my heart, I still believed I was entirely on my own. And there’s a thing about such core convictions: they are laid down in pain. According to John Eldredge, such can only be removed by pain.

For years, I just didn’t want to go there–didn’t want to follow Jesus there–into my deepest woundings. Why would he want to hurt me so, to expose these things?

Because he is faithful. And in his fidelity, he is faithful to wound us in the places of our deepest hurts, because he wants to heal them! In order to do so, he has to bring them to light. If you think on it, if you ask him for insight, there is a theme common to your greatest hurts, issues that keep coming up over and over again.

God is the one bringing those things to light–because he loves you.

Will you let him into those places today?




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Christ-follower, husband, dad, blogger, reader, writer, movie buff, introvert, desert-dweller, omnivore, gym rat. May, or may not, have a burgeoning collection of Darth Vader t-shirts. Can usually be found drinking protein shakes, playing with daughter, working out with his son, or hanging out with his wife. Makes a living playing with computers.Subscribe to RandomlyChad by Email

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