Living a fulfilled life without God
I’m currently reading “In the Beauty of the Lilies” by John Updike and find myself reflecting a bit on my loss of faith. I’m not certain what the whole book is about yet, but the first part is about a Presbyterian pastor who loses his faith. It was just over a year ago that I found myself very much like this character (Clarence) in this novel. During the first several pages following his acknowledgement that he no longer believed, a phrase keeps repeating itself in his thoughts: “There is no God.” I remember this echoing thought as I walked around in somewhat of a stupor the first few weeks following my departure from faith. I remember seeing things in an entirely new way. I remember even mundane things like yard work would be cause for reflection as I looked around and marveled at nature and wondered where it all came from if there was no God. I never realized how much of my thoughts revolved around the foundation of a belief in God.
It’s very moving to read this story to know that something similar was a reality for me and a reality for many others as they depart. The fear of how to explain this to your spouse, your kids, and to your extended family and friends. What will everyone think? How will they treat you? Will they think you’re crazy? This all lies in the background of something you know you can’t help… your disbelief. What makes this so difficult is that you can’t just turn these thoughts off and decide to believe again. I’m at a point in the book where this character is trying to explain to his wife that his faith is just not there any longer. His wife was criticizing him for deciding to “abandon your Lord” and he explained:
“I didn’t decide, dear. The decision was beyond my control. My Lord decided, if you would rather, to cast me out.”
There were many nights I had to remind myself this as I wondered if I was making a mistake. It wasn’t a choice. I no longer believed and couldn’t take that back if I wanted to. My faith was gone.