Realistic Expectations

Loving dogs is a little bit better than loving people, even...
Loving dogs is a little bit better than loving people, even…

My best friend when I was a kid was named Brandon. The Ramanos had kids that lived next door, but they were much older than me, so I fell more in love with the Golden Eye and Mario Kart on the N64 than I did with the guys that owned it. Brandon was the Steves’ grandson, our other neighbors. The problem was that he didn’t live with them or anything, so whenever he was gone, I made do with Jake, or at least, I’m pretty sure that’s what his name was.

Jake lived just down the street, and I was allowed to ride my bike to his house and all around our suburban Rochester neighborhood, as long as I was home when it got dark. One day, as we rolled up my driveway on our Mountain Furies like the bona fide thugs we were and I prepared to go inside, he issued me a challenge. I don’t know what the conversation preceding this was, but the challenge went like this:

I bet my dad could beat up your dad!

I remember being pretty logical, even as a child. I thought about what I knew about Jake’s dad at the time. I knew that my dad had congenital scoliosis, a medical condition in which a person’s spinal axis has a three-dimensional deviation, resulting in a great deal of pain and a disability check. So I told Jake that he was probably right.

The Truth about Daddy

Unfortunately, honesty isn’t so easy when you’re a Christian. It weds you to certain claims, and being wedded to those can get you into some pretty ridiculous positions. One of those positions is defending the right to say you have the baddest daddy on the block.

God’s omnipotence is one of the most standard claims about his character. It is the understanding that God is the supreme ruler of the universe, the maker of the heavens and the earth, the star-breather. It’s also one of the attributes that makes it most difficult to love God.

Suicide, infanticide, genocide, homicide, AIDS, starvation, poverty, crime, war, famines, droughts, global warming, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, etc. What does the world have to look like for God to NOT have everything under control?

A couple of months back, I had a lovely spar with my good friend Steve, and we were discussing the tragic death of a student from a school in the Adventist community. And I wondered what it was like to be the parents of that girl, not having surrendered that idea that God was completely in control, and that his failure to prevent their daughter’s death was somehow in his plan. The mental gymnastics that you have to do there are endless.

As an atheist, it’s a lot less complicated and, I think, less sad for me. I don’t believe that there’s some being who loves me, or who’s eternally invested in my wellbeing. I don’t believe he cares about me so much that he knows the number of hairs on my head, or divinely attends my life and offers me guidance and wisdom. And while that might sound bleak to you, I submit that it’s very freeing. Because when bad things happen, I’m not wondering how this being of infinite power and caring is letting this happen to me, I’m thinking, “Yeah, cancer. This is a thing that happens.” It works better because I don’t think I’m the center of the universe, and that takes the pressure off of, well…everything.

Things hurt a lot less if you’re more real from the start. Maybe your god can’t move mountains, and maybe that’s ok. But it’s much easier to love someone – your parents, your spouse, and yourself when you have realistic expectations from the start.

I would put “actually existing” at the top of my list.

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4 thoughts on “Realistic Expectations”

  1. Hi, first and foremost I wanted to lay all my cards out on the table: I am a Christian but I was interested in what you had to say. There’s not doubt in me about God BUT I do think it’s unwise for us (anyone) to find a group of people like themselves and stay in their little bubble.
    One of the most influential people in my life was an atheist and I learned a lot about what I believe and why I believe it. So I just wanted to pick your brain.
    I have no intention of trying to convert you or debate or anything of that nature. I just want to learn and I want to step out of my comfort zone.
    If you’re interested in talking (seriously and honestly) I’d love to just talk really. My blog has my contact info. If you’re not interest, totally cool.
    Simone

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    1. Hey! I’m always free to contact people that want to chat! It’s always a helpful starting point when you don’t have to try and convert anyone, and I’m sure you’re perfectly lovely. 🙂 Talk to you soon!

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  2. When my wife left, it crushed me beyond what I knew I could be crushed. Maybe it’s cliché, but I adored her. All of those who knew me best can attest to this fact. The pain that all of this has caused my family, my friends, and my children seems insurmountable. How could this be a part of God’s plan.
    After I hadn’t eaten or slept for over two months, I had become very sick, and felt such a loss of willingness to live I expected to die soon. I remember how I felt- like completely giving up.
    It was then I remembered who The Lord is. When Jesus came to Earth, His main concern was to heal. The curse of sin had caused sickness of mind, body, and spirit. Jesus dedicated His ministry to reversing it as much as He could. I I believe He still does. He wouldn’t be worth serving our believing in if He didn’t allow for competition. He may claim the final victory, but let’s face it, most people allow themselves and their vices to rule over them, not Jesus. He has to respect that.
    He brought me healing when I needed it most, and as hard as it was at the time, I thanked Him for all that I had left, and for the 7 wonderful years that I got to enjoy loving my wife. Because truth be told, if I actually believe all of this, I believe also that God doesn’t owe me anything. If left to myself I would choose evil over good, myself over others, and ultimately, death over life. I believe He loves me enough to let this messed up world and all the messed up things about it grow my character, and help me to be ready for something better. It’s so difficult to see outcomes and purposes from finite eyes. But The Lord IS sovereign. He DOES care. And most importantly, this is all temporary. As a parent, and an ex-husband who still loves his ex-wife very much, it is painful to let those I love reap the dreadful consequences of their choices. I try to protect them with rules, but when they make the wrong choice, they take away my power to protect them, and all I can do is my best to show them I love them anyway. If there is an All-Powerful supreme King of The Universe, this is exactly the type I would want. One who loves enough to allow this world to go as far as it can go, and save everyone that can be saved in as much time as it takes.

    I love you, Tim. Your mind is truly gifted, and your talent truly a blessing.

    Keith

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    1. I understand distress and heartache, and especially the type that can come with divorce, the kind that seems never-ending. I’m interested to go back 7 years into the past, though, and see if you felt that the Lord was leading you in the direction of marrying your wife. Either you think that he was leading you to her, regardless of knowing that your relationship would end in failure, or that you were mistaken about where he was taking you. Either way, you end up blaming yourself for all the bad and giving God credit for all the good. Either you messed it up with the person he intended for you, or you ran away from his leading you to a different person or none at all. Furthermore, either you screwed up with your wife against God’s counsel, or he intentionally set you up with someone he knew you’d eventually be unhappy with, so that you could learn a lesson and have your character molded. These are all pretty bad options, so let me propose the simplest one.

      Your marriage was not designed, intended, or ordained by the perfect Creator of the universe. There was no guiding force that led you to your wife other than you all’s desire to be with one another. You decided who to love, partly compelled by your biology to do so, and you didn’t exactly get your desired result. That’s it. No angels and demons, no one wrestling to gain control of your soul, no god who abandoned you, or Satan who deceives you, simply two people that didn’t work out well together, because of irreconcilable faults that they both brought to the table. No magic, no invisible creatures, just the way things are.

      What else are you looking for?

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