I had the opportunity to listen to an atheist's sermon this week. It stirred up a lot of thoughts, but one has been haunting me this whole week. While speaking, the man kind of told the story of life from his perspective--it was atoms and molecules evolving over time to come to a place where life has meaning because we give it meaning--because we choose and emote and live, the sun has meaning, for example. And as he painted this picture of life and how we are all connected to one another and all other natural matter, I had just a moment or two where I felt what I would feel if I did not believe in God. For just a moment, I identified with the reality he was painting to the point where God disappeared and it was just us--the natural world--existing and moving and living.
And as I imagined the world of space and time swirling and moving--dancing almost--to create atoms and life, I felt a profound sense of emptiness. The natural world felt distant and cold compared to what I'd felt a moment before.
What I realized in those moments is that my entire reality, my entire identity is built on the belief and experience that I am created and loved by the God of the universe. I believe and live life like there is a God whose primary character is love who creates and brings order and brings life. And even though I don't understand why horrible things happen, and even when the world seems so dark and excruciatingly painful because of all the evil that exists from day to day, I wake up in the morning and I go to bed at night knowing that God searches me and knows me, that he knit me together in my mother's womb, that he knows when every sparrow falls, and he knows the number of hairs on my head. I am precious and valuable because he loves me--not because of what I have done, because of who I am, or because of where I have been or where I am going. I am one who is loved.
This belief affects me profoundly. It gives me hope and confidence and a measure of peace and purpose in life. It gives me reason to love and to live and to care. It motivates me to be the best kind of human being I can be. It makes me want to give of myself and make life better. Because I am loved and cared for, I want to be loving and care for other people.
I've mentioned my studies of stories of people who met Jesus, and how the "eternal life" that he offered people was not so much about life after death, but about life with the eternal one. In our Sunday night meetings, we often talked about what life with the eternal one is like. Many times people conjured up pictures of a utopian existence--palm trees and clouds and all the other icons we associate with peace and rest. But for me, it's this sense of knowledge and relationship with a good and loving God--that's what life with the eternal one is like. It's being one who is loved, nothing more and nothing less.