Why loss of religious faith should be something to celebrate, Pt. 1
One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky. In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there was one only.
This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints, so I said to the Lord,
“You promised me Lord, that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there has only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?”
The Lord replied, “The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child, is when I carried you.”
Footprints In The Sand
By Mary Stevenson
When I heard this poem as a kid, I remember empathizing with the concern of the main character when they believed Jesus was not around for their most difficult and trying times. It reminded me of the feeling when I was learning to ride a bike; of me peddling nervously, thinking my dad was behind me holding the bike and steadying my balance, until I looked back and realized he had let go long before. In that moment, I felt immediate fear and a feeling of abandonment, much like I imagine the poem’s character experienced. I thought to myself, “How could he have abandoned me and let me go alone?? I am still just learning to ride! I can’t ride by myself! I could have fallen and hurt myself!”
…But then there was another feeling: a growing sense of confidence and achievement in the realization that I had, in fact, ridden my bike on my own. I may not have realized it at the time, but I did have the capacity within me. Now looking back, I read this poem and think it would have been truly inspiring had Jesus replied, “Because I wanted you to know that you had the strength within you to overcome these trying times all along.”
A big reason that I decided to start this blog is to discourage the shame people feel – or are made to feel – for not believing in God, and conversely, to encourage confidence in a life without supernatural oversight; to celebrate it. You may ask: why would someone celebrate a life without God? Well, for one, because of what that says about the strength, accomplishment, and capacity of human beings.
My first post dealt with the danger of divorcing yourself from ultimate responsibility for your actions by acting primarily as a follower of God. But there is another aspect of not claiming ultimate responsibility for your actions: you also inevitably rob yourself and others of due credit for truly impressive human accomplishments. We hear a variant of this all the time: “God carried me through to the end to win the game”, “I have to thank God for without him, I wouldn’t have gotten these good grades“, or “God blessed me and now my cancer is in remission!” to name a few examples; and as well intentioned as these statements are, they have the ulterior effect of putting down the player, student, or the oncologists (respectively) that truly deserve the acclaim and praise.
Some rightly feel insulted by the subtext of crediting God for human achievements. For instance, NBA guard Ray Allen:
“I’ve argued this with a lot of people in my life. When people say God blessed me with a beautiful jump shot, it really pisses me off. I tell those people, ‘Don’t undermine the work I’ve put in every day.’ Not some days. Every day.”
Along the same lines, if a patient emerges from a difficult but successful surgery and thanks God for his health, you can understand doctors, surgeons, and/or scientists feeling like their efforts went under-appreciated.
But this is NOT to insinuate that followers of God are ungrateful, insulting people. I point this out to simply highlight that humans are independently and collectively capable of tremendous and wonderful achievements, and unfortunately a lot of it goes untapped or uncredited.
Hence the celebration. To understand that humans are not subject to a supernatural being that merely blesses you with intellect, strength, or ability comes with it the confidence and sense of accomplishment with realizing that every struggle you have overcome, every challenge you have risen to, every strength you have displayed… has come from within.