“So a white, Christian girl walks up to an atheist…”

Categorized as Rhonda's Posts

The hour is late. Darkness has fallen, and we’re spending time with some friends. Around a camp fire that sprang, all spontaneous, from a time of heart-to-heart exchange, they have come. First one, then another slips up. From all different backgrounds, belief systems; from the highways and byways of life, they have come.

A young man in a wheelchair, raised in church. His humor is dry and refreshing.

A blonde, straight-spoken young woman. She’s not afraid to say what she’s thinking.

Another young mother, lovely, compelling, who attended a Christian high school. When an ’80s sing-along breaks out, she knows her Petra tunes because, well, high school. However, I see her discomfort, and then she slips away.

A gorgeous, athletic girl comes next. She has lights strung around her neck, a jaunty display of good cheer, and I like it. I like her. She sidles in on my left, leaning in to feel the fire. When I ask how old she is, she says, “Twenty-nine.” She’s the age of my oldest son.

Her spirit–ah, her spirit is sweet and soft, and I find myself patting her on the back in the happy clamor of the fireside kaboodle. This one has captured my heart. This girl!

“Bye-bye, my favorite lesbian!” a friend calls to her upon leaving.

Around me, the conversation’s swirling. Then, a mention of Adam and Eve, and boom–great discomfort. “Adam and Eve didn’t exist.” That’s what someone proclaims, and a frank, respectful discussion ensues. And that’s when he appears.

At my elbow, a stranger. He’s been drinking. He’s just “happened” to stumble into our circle and to hear a snippet of our fireside chat. Clearly, the reference to Adam and Eve has distressed him, and he wants me to know it. He wants to argue the existence of God.

One after another after another, he pours out his contentions with Almighty God, and I don’t know how to answer him. So I listen. I listen, and I tell him what this God has done for me. I tell him of the peace and joy that I carry every day, and that’s when he begins to falter. He stops. I am looking straight into his eyes as he tells me, “Okay. That peace is the thing. When someone tells me they have it, I don’t care what they believe in, as long as they have peace.” And then, “I can tell that you have it.”

He talks some more; I can feel his bone-deep angst with a God who has failed him. Left him. Who hasn’t, to his mind, come through for him. He is angry. And, further, he’s hurt.

It’s when I tell him of the great wrestling match I had with God over my own deep wounding and pain that, once more, he falters, and I see a spark, feel a connection. “So you’ve had trauma?” He leans towards me as he’s asking this, and I am able to say, “Yes, I have.”

I tell him how God has given me the power to forgive the ones who hurt me, to love the ones who hurt me and caused the trauma. I tell him that in my own humanity, I did not have the power to forgive, to love, or to obey Jesus when He said I should bless them. To bless and not curse, that I didn’t have the power, but He did, and I obeyed, and I can see that it softens something in him.

I am feeling weary, inept. Completely unqualified to be answering this wounded, drunken man’s charges. But somehow, I stay with him. I can’t shut him out, and at last, I look in his eyes and say, “I am going to tell you this. You don’t have to believe it because I have the faith to believe it, but I believe that God has had His eye upon you your whole life. I believe that God has such fondness and affection for you.”

He’s squirming, uncomfortable, but this tiny, curly-headed mother’s not finished. I put my hand on his arm, I look deep into his eyes, and I say it again, “I believe it; you don’t have to because I do. I’m going to ask God to show you that He loves you.”

“He’s gonna have to be blunt,” he says, sharp, and I’m grinning and nodding ’cause I know my God can meet this challenge.

“I love you.” That’s what I say. And then I give him a directive. “I will pray that He’ll show you, and your job will be to keep your eyes open to see it and your ears open to hear Him.” And as he turns to walk into the cool night air, I say, smiling up at him, “Remember? I’m going to (and I point one finger to heaven) and you’re going to watch and listen.”

And with that, he’s gone.

Oh, my heart. These people! They’ve done gone and crawled right on in to take their place beside the others that God has sent. For the ones hurt by religion, I feel their aching. For the ones abandoned (or so it seems) by God, I feel understanding. For the ones who’ve been rejected, despised, and treated with disrespect, I feel His longing. And it’s changed me.

As my sweet, little friend, she with the encircling lights, gets up to leave, she starts with me. One by one by one, she travels around the circle, and we hug her so very tight. “Look for it,” I want to say. “Watch for that Love. Look for Him.” 

I know that this night, they have seen Love…in the faces of His children. They have heard Him…in the voices of His children. They have felt Him in the loving embraces of His children. And I think that, just maybe, it’s changed them.

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