16 years ago today, I wrote this in my journal:
I’ve been getting up around 6:30 to worship and pray as I watch the sunrise. I feel like I’ve been much more at peace since I started doing this. I’ve been in a much better mood in general, but I’m tired today. We had to take down the fence so they could get the new mobile home onto the property then put up the fence again.
We went back to Southern Baptist of Bartlesville and the worship and prayer was awesome, along with the preaching. But I was thinking we should try 1st Baptist of Nowata again. It’d be close enough for us to be involved, there’s a weekly outreach program, discipleship classes, a friendly college group, and teacher who was talking about starting a prayer team.
The sermon was kind of basic, though. But maybe that’s what the church needs if they’re weak spiritually. I’d rather go somewhere a little more advanced. They have a big church lunch and singing on Sunday afternoons which is cool, but no prayer.
Southern Baptist of Bartlesville has an outreach program, too, but no witness training or classes. But if I got to know the pastor or someone I’d learn from them. Obviously I’m torn over the issue, but I know if we stay as close to God as possible and trust Him, we’ll go wherever we should go.
Mom has been upset about her job hunt. She starting to realize that she probably won’t find the kind of job she wants. The other day I kept trying to encourage her and remind her that God does want us here, so He has a job for her somewhere. I told her to stop dishonoring Him by worrying all the time and to just trust Him. I’m not worried. I know God will work things out.
— March 8th, 1999
Dear Former Self,
Getting up early to watch the sunrise is a nice idea. It sets the mood for the day, which could explain why you’ve been “more at peace” lately. That peaceful feeling isn’t because of God; it’s because having your prayer time in the morning instead of the afternoon simply works better for you. If it were because of God, it wouldn’t matter what time of day you prayed.
That leads me to my next point: It’s not the prayer, but rather the act of engaging in silent reflection that is bringing you peace. I know you spend a large portion of your prayer time contemplating nature and thanking God for the things you have. But atheists can also contemplate nature and appreciate the things they have. Many of us simply meditate, which can be very relaxing. Peace doesn’t come from God; it comes from within.
You seem to be spending a lot of time comparing the pros and cons of those churches. But if you believe God is going to lead you to the right church anyway, why bother weighing the options? You told your mom to stop dishonoring God and “just trust Him” to find her a job. But by your own standard, aren’t you also dishonoring God by trying so hard to find the right church?
Christians contradict themselves this way all the time. They put a lot of thought and energy into making decisions–writing lists of pros and cons, imagining potential outcomes, asking other people’s opinions–and then they turn around and claim God will show them what to do. But if they really trusted God, they wouldn’t do any of those other things. They would just pray, wait, and do whatever feels right. The fact that they try so hard to make the right decision shows they don’t trust God.
And once again, God wins no matter what happens. When Christians make good decisions, they “give God the glory” and forget that they put a lot of thought into it. But when Christians make bad decisions, they tell themselves that either they didn’t trust God enough, or that God wanted things to turn out badly for some unknown purpose.
You could say the same things after putting your trust in a waffle stuck to the ceiling. Let’s say you’re trying to decide which car to buy. You research several vehicles, read reviews, consult friends, and put your trust in the waffle. If the car you buy is great, you praise the waffle. If the car turns out to be a lemon, you blame yourself for not trusting the waffle, or you tell yourself the waffle wanted you to buy a lemon for reasons unknown.
Whether it’s god or a waffle, it’s still a delusion. Instead of trusting an imaginary being, try trusting yourself.
— Matt, March 8th, 2015
This is part of an ongoing series called Letters to My Former Self.