I like that, even though I no longer think there is anyone up there.
When I lost my faith, it was instantaneous, like a soap bubble bursting; and my father, who had been the shining center of my childhood, was of no help. He was a man of arrogant humility, and I feared him too much to tell him about the change.
I owe you an explanation for that oxymoron. He believed that any man, however good in the eyes of other men, was a worm before God. He also believed that God was all powerful and had given us his Word to follow, and he read that Word daily.
My father had the humility of knowing he was nothing, and the arrogance of knowing he had all the answers in the Bible in his hand. It was a lethal combination. When I was a child, I feared his godlike certainty, though now I see the deeper uncertainties behind it.
So how do you stay thankful when there is no one to whom you can direct your thanks?
You can, you know. I am thankful every day of my life. I put the question into the words of Ian Gunn in the novel Raven’s Run, as he tries to explain to his lover:
“Faith isn’t something you can turn off and on. When it’s gone, it’s just gone.”
Raven said, “I couldn’t live like that. Don’t you ever miss it – miss Him?”
I shuffled the words around in my mind to get them just right. It was something I didn’t want her to misunderstand.
“What I miss,” I said, “is like this: I go out in the evening and I’m alone and I see a beautiful sunset. The clouds are on fire and the sky is so blue it’s almost green. It is so beautiful it makes me hurt and I just want to look up and say, ‘Thank you.’ But there’s no one to say it to. That’s what I really miss. Having someone to say ‘thank you’ to.”
The truth is, I am as thankful today for the good things in my life as I was fifty-five years ago when I carried my Bible to school as a testimony to my faith. Now I direct that thanks to the people around me – most especially to my wife – with a little left over to send toward the (probably) empty sky.