When I was a college student, my Anthropology professor said something that rubbed me the wrong way. "Religion is manmade." I think I was being sensitive and overly cautious about those "crazy atheists" who would try and deconvert a good Christian girl like me. Now, I just laugh at myself because it is a simple truth that has nothing to do with God.
Religion is man's way of tangibly connecting to the God of the Universe. Jews and Christians believe they are inspired by the Word of God to build their religions in specific ways (using the teachings of Moses and the examples of the Early Church).
It's just so risky, isn't it?
For God to give us Himself, His inspiration, and allow us to imply our own expression and creativity to honor Him.
I remember when my oldest son was 4 years old and graduated from preschool. All the kids were asked to make a poster of their families. So I handed my son markers and poster board the day before "graduation" and let him create.
When we arrived to the fellowship hall of his Baptist preschool, we had the chance to see all the graduates' posters in a gallery display. I no doubt blushed in humiliation at first. I had assumed that my son was to decorate his poster all by himself. He was the student, after all. But many of the posters around us had the flare of a mama's touch..Pinterest-worthy displays shone next to my son's scribble art and crooked letters.
If you've heard me tell that story lately, my son now 18 years old, you'll hear the pride in my voice. The life lesson I learned from that day was not, "I need to micromanage my children's art work, school work, projects so they represent correctly."
The life lesson I learned was, "My children need to own their work. It is not my job to do it. The ownership of my kids' work is more important than my perfection."
God is a parent who gifted us a glimpse of His heart and our part in His family, then handed us markers and poster board to express our place in that family and our Love for Him. I think the greatest takeaway I learned from the valley is that my husband's deconversion had nothing to do with God not showing up or being easily disproven. I wonder if most deconversions are based around religious certainties by overzealous men and women trying to get God just right on their poster board?
There are certainties I will never deny (read the Nicene Creed...sums it up). But, the poster board gallery that came crashing down around my husband consisted of absolutes that just aren't that absolute in the end (denial of evolutionary science, literal vs. allegorical texts in the Bible, interpretations applied to contemporary life today...just to name a few big ones that were massive stumbling blocks for my husband).
As I trekked up and out of the valley, my heart grew lighter when I realized that every argument against God was not against Him at all, but against implied certainty according to Man. And knowing that God took the risk by giving us freedom to express ourselves, gives me hope that my husband's journey might not be away from Him at all.
My husband might just be walking toward his own set of markers and poster board, getting ready to express a more pure, less manipulated expression of God one day.
If you are in the valley or just beyond it, know that valley walking is a fruitful journey. It's not easy, it's treacherous most days, but God is near and ready to show you amazing things. I believe that with all my heart. Thank you for reading this last post of the Valley Notes Series. If you haven't read the rest of my notes, check them out here.
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