Monday, October 20, 2014

Breakfast with an atheist
Flickr photo by gemteck1

The man sat across the kitchen table from me.

He’d come to visit my dad.  They’d studied to be preachers together in college.

The three of us chowed down on some breakfast.

From time to time, the man and I would turn to face the head of the table, whenever my Dad had something to say.

The man, small-boned and bookish-looking, devoured his meal.  I don’t think I’d ever seen a person enjoy a plate of eggs as much as he did.

Between bites, the man visited with Dad, catching up on news and who they’d run across in the past few years.

At a pause in the conversation (and there weren’t many), the man cleared his throat and said:

“Jimmy, I want you to know I’m an atheist.”

Things got quiet, and I felt a little scared for some reason.

Dad took a deep breath and started a whole new discussion, or what some of you history buffs might refer to as a full-on Lincoln-Douglas.

The man argued against the existence of God (and of Jesus too), and Dad defended Them.

And I just sat there in wonder.

Back and forth they went, almost like they were arm-wrestling instead of just talking.

And I didn’t say a thing.  I don’t think I could have, even if I tried.

How in the world could this man not believe in God?

They went on and on for what seemed like a considerable amount of time, and I’m sure I missed a few cartoons or some other kid activity, but sitting there at that table was where I wanted to be.

A front row seat to the greatest debate I’d ever seen.

And finally, the intensity and the words—as they always do—began to peter out.  And there sat the man, still sticking to his atheistic guns.

I was amazed.

And then, before the dust had even settled, he was off.  With a grin on his face, the man excused himself from the table, thanked my mom for wonderful breakfast, shook my dad’s hand, and walked out the side door.  I watched him stroll across our carport and disappear from sight.

I don’t think I ever saw him again.

And later on, as I had some time to think the whole thing over, I came to realize something.  I’d say it sort of crept up on me.

For some reason, it seemed to me like the man hadn’t really wanted to believe in God.  It seemed like he had actually wanted to disbelieve.

And as I thought about it some more, I knew one thing for sure.

I wanted to believe.

I wanted to live in a world with God in it.

And even today … I feel almost exactly the same way.  I really do want to believe.

In God.

In a loving God.

In a God of mercy and grace.

In Jesus.

And maybe the wanting is half the battle?

Maybe it’s more than half.


  1. Mike, I loved reading this. I wish you could have heard Randy Harris speak last night, as it connected with your thoughts here about the wanting being an important part of the believing. And I have to thank you, as seeing your post prompted me to break a months-long unintentional "fast" from my own blogging and to write about something/someone very dear to me. I had been wanting to, but somehow wasn't able to, but somehow this caused some neurons to fuse, or fire, or something! Thanks for that.

    1. Thanks, Sheila! Now I'm googling to see if I can find Randy Harris' speech online. :-)