The God Who Hides
Atheists and Christians share a common dilemma, albeit in different degrees. They both must navigate seasons of life without the perception of divine companionship.
John of the Cross described such a season as the noche oscura, the dark night of the soul. Much is made of Mother Teresa’s long dark night; her inner struggle. Kerry Walters wrote that detractors evaluate the life of St. Teresa of Calcutta with a certain schadenfreude—a German word meaning to take pleasure in another’s misfortune. That’s too bad. Christians and atheists ought to be the best of friends. Really.
They should have an almost endless reservoir of compassion for one another.
Atheists should consider what it’s like to build one’s life around a relationship that, to practitioners, is as real as loving one’s mother—and then, suddenly, to find oneself utterly alone. “That’s what you get for believing a fairy tale,” some atheist observer might opine. But that’s not real humanism. That’s commentary from a self-righteous know-it-all. You don’t have to a Christian to be blot on the human condition. Jerks come is all flavors.
No, a true humanist considers what that inner torment must feel like—and he/she has compassion. To hope that there is benevolence at the heart of it all is no crime. To hope that there is meaning, and purpose, and a transcendent friend, this is no felony. A true humanist looks tenderly upon those in pain.
Christians, too, should consider what it’s like to live with a God-shaped hole deep in one’s psyche. That is, if there is such a hole, as Christians believe. They should think about the endless, fruitless attempts to fill that hole with the love of a person, the quest for money, a simmering rage, or a mind-numbing succession of craft ales.
There is a scene in Men in Black (1997) where a local farmer, an abusive drunk, challenges an alien invader. When the alien instructs the man to put down his shotgun, the bully responds, “You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold dead fingers.” The alien replies, “Your proposal is acceptable.” Then, a long tentacle seizes the hapless human and Edgar (that was the character’s name) comes to a miserable end.
Then the alien takes Edgar’s skin and wears it as a disguise. If you haven’t seen the movie, it’s not as macabre as it might sound. It’s done in such a comedic way that the real human actor should get an award. The portrayal is award-winning because the skin doesn’t quite fit the alien. Faux Edgar’s movements are awkwardly herky-jerky (like this sentence).
The point of this illustration is that Christians should consider what it’s like for atheists to go through life never feeling like their skin fits—never feeling like their true self. And they should weep for a life so lived.
Christians and atheists should really have each other’s back.
There are a couple of reasons why God hides, I think. The first is found in the same reason why one should never buy the jumbo popcorn at the movie theater. You know the one I mean? The size that could feed a family of four for 6 weeks. If you’re like me, when you buy the mondo version, you make a serious run at eating the whole thing. But halfway through the movie, you’re stuffed. Bloated with greasy fingers, you wish you hadn’t. And on date-night, too. Dang-it.
You see (and this is very important, so listen closely): things are better when you don’t get all you want. God isn’t looking for bloated followers. He teases everyone, in their own best interest, onward.
Things are better when you don’t get all you want. Get it?
The second closely related reason why God hides is that He doesn’t hide at all. He moves. One can’t find God in the old place because He has moved to a new place. He wants you to catch up.
But of course, if there is no God, as atheists believe, then the reason God hides is self-evident. In their worldview, God isn’t there to hide at all, right? And if that’s the case, then we’re all believing a fairy tale—not just people of faith. In other words, Marxist, humanist, anarchist, deist, phlebotomist, who cares? It doesn’t matter anyway. With no divine point of reference on what makes for a superior worldview, who’s to say one paradigm is better than another? And appointing yourself judge is dangerous. An honest atheist knows that the first step toward the killing fields, or the inquisition, or the holocaust, is to vilify a group of people because of their worldview.
A Vietnam-era veteran, a former prisoner of war, said that faith in Jesus was the thing that sustained him during his torments. He said that if Jesus weren’t real, he would love Him anyway.
If Jesus weren’t real, he’d love Him anyway.
And I would, too. Jesus is an idea so beautiful that it deserves to be loved. You see, if there’s any possibility that God emptied Himself into the likeness of man, and then died for me, then I have to explore the nature of that supposed gift. Could that possibly be true? I have to know.
And I do.
And this brings me to a bit of an announcement. When I started this weekly blog, I purposed to post for a year. And I’ve done it. This is my 52nd offering. A whole year of my bloggery is now online. I will continue to post from time to time, perhaps, but I’m not adhering to a weekly deadline moving forward. I intend to concentrate on the podcasts for the immediate future. And that effort, too, has a season.
So, in my last weekly blog installment, I want to end with a question. Won’t you explore the spill? You see, the life is in the blood. In my “-ist” list above, I included phlebotomist on purpose. In my worldview, God experienced death so that I might experience life. Jesus shed his blood for me. I know, it’s crazy. It’s so crazy that it’s absolutely the sanest thing any human mind ever conceived.
You owe it to yourself to see if it could possibly be true.
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!
Affirmation of the Week: Ready or not, here I come.