My two youngest boys, Caleb (4) and Jacob (2), are busy laughing and playing a game together. They take breaks from playing the game every now and then to chase each other around the house. Their laughter and shrieks of joy bounce off of every wall. My daughter Nicole, who is now just over 5 months old, sleeps soundly in another room. My wife is at work and my oldest son is at school. I am left alone with my three youngest children for the better part of three days a week. Then we change shifts and it’s my wife’s turn. Then we share a full day together. Some days kids can be quite the handful. Today, they are just excited to have each other to play with and that makes me happy.
There are days when I contemplate my life now and contrast it with the life I used to live. Truth be told, I do that all the time. Some days I mourn the loss of my faith and wonder what the future holds without God to lean on. Then on other days, days like today, I just look around me…and listen. I hear the sounds of happy children. I see the smiles on their faces. I think of all of the wonderful things I have in my life. That’s when I realize that I have not lost anything worth holding on to.
When I was a believer, I held onto faith. Hope. A wish. I held onto an idea. I took an idea and made it reality in my mind. But when I compare that to my life now, it’s a night and day difference. God was not there when I called out to him. My children are right here in front of me. God did not comfort me when I hurt. My wife holds me and tells me things will be okay. God doesn’t fill my home with love and laughter. My family does.
When I think of all I used to believe in, I cringe a little. I believed it all based on stories. These stories told me to place God above everything and everyone…including my family. Looking at these happy, giggling wonderful kids, I can’t help but wonder why (if God is so obvious and ever-present) he can’t bring me even a fraction of the joy of those who I was once told to put second to him. Jesus told us in Luke 14:26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters-yes, even their own life-such a person cannot be my disciple.” Is there anyone out there who actually loves their family who not only condones this verse, but follows it? I sure couldn’t. I could never (no matter how much I believed) put Jesus above my own children or my wife.
I choose to fight hate with love and fight lies with truth. I can’t cast my family aside who is right here in front of me giving me infinite joy and instead follow an idea put forth in a book. I can choose to look back on my time as a Christian and be bitter or I can use it to make my future better. I have learned about the lies of religion and I choose to use it as a life lesson to make my remaining time here on earth more satisfying. Where at first it was difficult, I can now easily cast aside the notions of God and Jesus in order to enjoy my family in every moment. If God could bring me to smile the way my kids do watching them play together then maybe I would reconsider. But he hasn’t. Not once.
Rather than look to the past and embrace stories to use as a source of joy, just look around you. Look to your family. Look at your husband, your wife, your kids, your siblings, your parents or whoever else is important to you. Think of all the times they were actually there for you (not just told they were in a storybook) and do what comes naturally…