‘What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men …… That is what love looks like.’ - St. Augustine

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Atheist and His Gift To Me

I've been conversing lately with an atheist. It's fascinating and invigorating and has given me the gift of really going inward and looking closely and honestly at my own beliefs. I'm more grateful to this person than I could possibly express, because his honest and rigorous searching for the truth for himself has given me the gift of deep self-reflection.

But this friend has been challenging me to explain my beliefs and asking lots of questions on why and how I believe such 'magical thoughts.' It doesn't bother me in the least - it does sound like magical thinking...if you don't know Him. And the funny thing is, there is nothing I can say, ever, that could convince this person that God exists. Or that Christ knows us and loves us. Nothing.

Yes, I'm what the world calls a 'Christian' , but I don't even like that word, because it has so many negative connotations these days. I prefer to say I'm following Christ. Following His example, trying my best to be like Him, love like Him, act like Him, live like Him. It's a tall order and, truth be told, I don't just fail to live up to it every day...I fail every second.

And what I hate about contemporary Christians is that far too many of them seem to get their priorities wrong: they get obsessed with the 'Gay Agenda' as they call it (and by the way, I think God sees same sex couples the same way He sees opposite sex couples...but that is another whole post of its own, and YES, I know my scripture, thank you very much), they hyper-focus on constant evangelizing and proselytizing, they judge and point fingers and make decisions from a place of fear. They do ALL these things, instead of doing the one thing Jesus asked of us while He was here - Love. 

Love one another. 

Love your neighbor as yourself. 

Love like the Samaritan did...out of your comfort zone. 

Love like Mary Magdalene did...with an overflowing, scarily generous love. 

Love like Jesus did - putting others ahead of ourselves, even unto death.

I can't talk this friend into believing there is a God. I could spew verses and texts and personal stories for a century and not move him. I can't coerce, persuade, convince in any way. But what I can do is infinitely more convincing. And relevant. And difficult.

I can love.

If we truly, truly lived by Christ's words and simply LOVED as often and as deeply and as honestly and as wholeheartedly as He did, we wouldn't need words. Our life would be the message. Our life alone could prove the existence of a loving God.

I'm so very sad these days, seeing - every. single. day. - examples of how terribly people treat each other. I don't even have to watch the news for an example...I can see it in the actions of people around me, and in myself, every day. Yes, sometimes it is blatant, but more often than not it is a subtle, hidden kind of selfishness and self-absorption that plays out -- we rush to cut into traffic ahead of that other car, we talk incessantly about our own problems, we gossip, we silently judging someone for how they act....we choose the opposite of Love.

I don't want to be cut off from Love like that. Every selfish action, no matter how small, cuts us off from Love. And Love isn't an idea. Love is alive:)

So, I've been on a personal quest for some time to become as loving and compassionate as I can. It's a hard road. I'm making tough choices...doing things that other, wiser souls have done before me and say have worked:
  • I'm trying to detach from material things...giving away all I can and focusing my intention on people instead of things. I'm praying and meditating all I can....generations of wise souls have found great soul growth in these acts, and have grown closer to Love.
  • I'm sacrificing in ways that are uncomfortable. I don't want to share all the ways with you, because part of the sacrifice is bearing it joyfully, but I'll share one small way -- I am denying myself food I love for one meal a day. A kind of fast. I eat one meal a day as either just a piece of bread or a bowl of plain cereal. I don't enjoy this, but I know from researching spiritual fasting that even small sacrifices like this bear huge spiritual fruit..
  • I'm trying also to love others even when its painful or uncomfortable to do so. This has been the hardest of all. There are people who have really hurt me or angered me and I'm trying to see them through God's eyes instead of turning away from them, or judging them harshly.
And in all these things, I ask love for constant support and guidance. He knows the way. He created the Way.

Sometimes the loving choice is antithetical to our human thinking. I often have to ask God a dozen or more times to help me make the more loving choice, but He always answers, even if the voice I hear is like a whisper. He said to 'ask and it shall be given', and He holds to His word...test it out yourself.

I'm not out to convert anyone. Nope. And many of my Christian friends might be bothered by that. But, you see, I have infinite trust in Him. He told me that the greatest commandment is to love God and love my neighbor as myself. And so, I think it's pretty important that I focus on that.

God's love in infinite....so when my very human heart starts grieving, say, that I'm still separated from Anya and Daniel, and when I cry myself to sleep, when I have days of deep sorrow over my inability to bring Anya home after all these years, I remind myself of his Infinite Love. From my perspective it may seem that He is not answering my prayers, but I know from my experience as a parent, that children do NOT see the whole picture. I need to trust my Father. He has my back. I just know it.

And so, this friend of mine has forced some really hard questions, and I've found that I am perfectly content with some questions remaining unanswered. Why? Because in my lifetime, Love has proven Himself over and over as a faithful parent. I need only trust.

This friend asked the other night 'What if you find out it's all a myth?'
I thought about his question and realized it wouldn't really change much for me. It is my Truth, and even if there were a way to prove to me it's 'magical thinking' as he calls it, I wouldn't change a thing. Love is the greatest teacher, and I'm His student. May my gravestone be my diploma:)


  1. Keri, your tomb stone picture reminds me of the book "Homeward Bound". It is the story of raising your family with an eternal mindset. The author's wife was in the last stage of cancer. She walked by a flower shoppe and was looking at the cards that go on flowers. One of them said, "welcome home"....She told her husband, that is the card I want on my flowers. :)

    I think as Christians in America, we do NOT understand love. We do NOT understand that we have been forgiven much, and that we are called to love everybody, including our enemies.

    I am in study in the book of Amos right now and it is very convicting.
    I do not want to forget my first Love, Jesus Christ....
    I want HIM to change me and transform me into HIS image. I want HIM to lead me into all truth.

    I have learned that the gospel is best shared by our lives layed down to Jesus Christ. If we follow HIM, others will want to follow.

  2. Dear, dear Keri - I feel like you are my soulmate.... We are so alike in so many ways; I CANNOT figure out why we are not doing something together - studying the Bible, doing Shakespeare, teaching, orphanage work! Could be any of the above.

    Except you have a lot more gumption!

    My Ilya is a loud athiest (making me grateful he wasn't adopted by one of the people who adopt kids to "save" their souls. THAT would have been a catastophe waiting to happen...) Anyway, I have the same frustration. I am not now and never will be a person who can argue someone into believing. I just hope someday he will realize that it was always God loving him through me.

    I do daydream - Keri and I can have an English Language Theatre School.... We're the perfect pair to do it! Then I consider how odd it would be for me to do that anywhere but Ivanovo region.... No matter how you look at it - we are divided by a continent!

  3. Thank you for sharing your beautiful post about Christ's love.

  4. Thank you so much for this post, Keri! And it speaks such truth. We all need to practice more love. It's through our love that people will see Christ and come to follow Him. You've inspired me to think more about my own expressions of love.


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