But…I’m an Atheist…?

I have had so much on my mind lately that I’ve missed just sitting here at the computer and letting it all out.

So my dad’s health has declined.  The doctors removed all of the cancer so that currently isn’t a concern, but his mental health has taken a huge hit.  He’s very much ready to die and I understand where he’s coming from.  Looking at this as his daughter, it does make me sad.  I feel like I was deprived of a relationship, a real, quality relationship, with my dad for most of my life, and now there’s not much a relationship at all.  It’s become business.  Looking at him from a business standpoint, I understand where he’s coming from and I empathize.  I know he’s miserable.  None of us were prepared for this.  Between being stuck in the house, not being able to eat, drink, talk, anything…it’s understandable he’d sink into depression.  He’s been begging for hospice but since the cancer is gone they can’t approve it, so he was sent to palliative care.  They prescribed him some antidepressants but he won’t take them.  He just wants to die.  I kind of feel like he’s doing everything in his power to bring on death sooner.

As for my personal life, my daughter started preschool this year.  It was an emotional couple of weeks but she’s done great and has really thrived.  I was kind of excited to chat with some of the moms at drop-off and pick-up but not many really talk to me.  There’s one mom in particular who doesn’t like me, she’s made it quite clear, and if she’s nearby nobody else will talk to me.  It’s been like this for a couple of years so I’m quite used to it, I’m just bummed that the cliques didn’t end in high school.

Since nobody talks to me none of them know what’s going on with my dad, obviously.  I knew life was really getting crazy because my dreams were showing it; one night I had a dream that I was alone on a boat, I could see myself laying down on this little wooden boat in the middle of a large body of water, it was dark out so I could see the moon reflecting on the near-black water.  All of a sudden a storm picked up and waves were crashing over the boat and I just laid there, I did nothing but let the storm go on around me, crash over me.  The next day was a particularly rough day.  My dad was being so stubborn and demanding, the kids were all acting out, I just had a lot of stress going on.  I brought Charlotte to school and as I was getting in the car a mom, a mom I had only briefly met on the bike trail over the summer, approached me. (For anonymity she will be “preschool mom.”)

She said that she didn’t normally do this sort of thing and apologized if it was weird, but she had a dream about me the night before and she didn’t know if I was dealing with some storms in my life but she felt like she needed to reach out and invite me to her church, she offered for us to sit in her pew and said she wouldn’t be offended if I said ‘No.’  I thanked her and that was it.  I got in the car and as soon as my seat belt clicked I broke down.  I cried the whole way home.  She was a stranger to me, she knew nothing of my life, I’m very good about keeping my personal life personal so I know I wasn’t wearing my emotions.  It was just weird.  I thought a lot about her offer, though.  I talked to my best friend about it and I cried a lot.  Man I cried so much that day.  I looked up her church, though, and it is a non-denominational church a town or two over.  I watched a couple of the sermons online.  The pastor seemed cool, down to earth and not one of those IN-YOUR-FACE-LETS-SCREAM-ABOUT-JESUS kinds of people.  In the three sermons I watched there were a couple things he said that really stuck with me, I wrote them down and I’m going to share them here:

  1. “When you’re in the fight and things are hard, find Him.  Remember that He will be by your side.  Go to Him.  Lean on Him.  Let Him walk you through the tough stuff.  Remember that He is with you and you are not in this by yourself.”
  2. “Maybe you’ve never known that kind of father, maybe you never knew the kind of father that you could count on and holler for when you needed help.  Maybe that kind of relationship, it’s really foreign to you; that when you’re in trouble you can call on him and you know they’re going to come rescue you.  But God the father has not left you.  God the father is with you, too.  If you’re here and you’re like, ‘I’ve never seen God this way before, I’ve never seen that God’s the one that could help me or save me, the one that is with me in all things.  I’ve never leaned on God when things were tough before,’ you’ve never walked with Him…if you’re not sure how to walk with Him and this faith thing is new to you then all you need to do, when you start to believe…God grabs you by the hand and He teaches you how to walk, just like he did for Ephraim, and whenever it gets hard and you’re not sure how to move forward from here, He takes a little bit more weight and He keeps moving with you as you let Him.  When you start to fall, He catches you and when you start moving a little too fast He can pull you back, and when you get tired, He can carry you.”

So, based on just this blog post, and if you’ve read previous ones you’re familiar with my relationship with my dad, you can probably understand why these two quotes resonated with me.  The next day I told the preschool mom that I was really honored by her invitation, that it actually made me cry (and then I started crying right there in the preschool parking lot) and I put a lot of thought into it.  I briefly touched on what was going on with my dad and why her offer had such an impact on me, but wrapped it up with accepting her offer.  Then we hugged.

That Sunday I went to church.  I have not been to church in about ten years aside from the few funerals that I’ve attended, a couple baptisms.  I didn’t quite know what to expect but I was more open-minded because this one is non-denominational.  The lack of a title, I guess, makes me feel like I’m allowed to just be there without fully identifying as something I might not be.  The pastor I watched online didn’t speak that day, so I was a bit bummed, but a senior pastor did.  His sermon was a bit more historically based but he spoke about a fella named Gad who only appears in the bible a few times.  He’s not a key player, but when he appears he says something, usually a few words, that people don’t pay full attention to, but they should because his words are usually important.  He went on to say that sometimes people who aren’t key players in our life carry the post powerful message.  Naturally I couldn’t help but think of this preschool mom who definitely wasn’t a key player in my life (yet) but she had a message.  This senior pastor also mentioned that God doesn’t always come into your life as this loud, powerful, BOOM of a message, but sometimes he just comes quietly, when you need him.  He doesn’t force people to believe in Him, He wants them to just believe because they do, not because they were forced to.  So that sat with me.

That night I did something I haven’t done in 20 years or more.  I prayed.  I’ve mentioned before I think about how I’m a person of signs.  I feel like life gives us signs and we can do with that what we will.  I love that book “Animal Speak,” that I posted about previously, because we can look up the animals that come to us, if we see an animal we don’t usually see it could be a sign.  So while I was praying that night I asked for a sign.  I said that I felt weird, obviously this is outside of my comfort zone because I’ve identified as an atheist for most of my life.  I was confident in my views and never questioned them.  Why am I now?  So the very next day I walked out of the library downtown and there was a hawk on the sidewalk.  He looked at me, didn’t fly away but stood still.  I thought it was odd because it’s downtown, people are walking by, but we’re rural so a hawk isn’t a crazy thing to see.  I was driving home and as I turned on to my street there was another hawk just hanging out in the parking lot where our town has a small farmers market in the summer.  Again, odd, but not crazy.  Finally, I got home and as I pulled into my driveway I noticed there was a hawk sitting on my freaking roof.  Three hawks in the matter of ten minutes?  What are the odds?  So I tried to ignore it but that night I had a dream about a hawk flying above me all day.  I woke up and I looked up with the hawk means and the book said, “Hawk is akin to Mercury, the messenger of the gods.  Hawk medicine teaches you to be observant.  Life is sending you signals.”

I don’t know how I feel about all of it, honestly.  I’ve talked to one of my friends, a Christian, I’ll refer to her as MR, about all of it and she thinks it’s amazing.  She thinks that this is God’s way of showing Himself to me when I really need Him.  There was a sermon the other day on anxiety, given by the aforementioned senior pastor, and, for obvious reasons, it was so powerful to me.  I reached out to the cool pastor (his name is Danny) about my experience with the postpartum community and he referred me to his wife, who struggled with postpartum depression.  She and I spoke for a bit and she said that she felt so alone and it was so tough reaching out because you don’t think about “Christian” and “depression” going together, but she wants to work together to help other moms within the church.  I told MR about this and she suggested that maybe this was God opening up that door for me, to help more people who I wouldn’t normally have helped because of my lack of religion.  I hadn’t thought about it but it’s a real possibility.

So I come back to where I stand.  I’m confused, honestly.  I’ve been very open to this new path, though, and I’ve been reading the bible, I’ve been going to church on Sunday mornings, I’m even considering going to a bible study tomorrow night but I’m really torn on it because preschool mom won’t be there and she’s kind of been my crutch in that she is the one I confide in with this journey.  It’ll really be outside of my comfort zone.  I feel like it’d be silly for me to ignore the signs I’m being given.  I also feel silly because I feel almost hypocritical in all of this, like people will think I’m a fraud or that I’ve lost my mind, that maybe I’m only turning to God because of my dad.  I’ve identified so strongly as one thing for so long that I don’t want people to think that I’m becoming somebody else, that I’m only trying to fit in or appease other people, you know?

I’m almost embarrassed, and that may be the wrong word but, like the church community will see me as this rebellious non-believer who is just trying to infiltrate their world and my world, who knows me as an atheist family woman with good intentions, will think I’m abandoning myself in the sake of being accepted.  Neither is true, of course.  I’m just a confused woman, a lonely woman, with a lot of stress and emotions, who is just trying to find a little bit of peace.

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