My bumper sticker says, “Jesus loves you, but I’m his favorite.” It cracks me up every time.
Each year, one of the students will get a good long look at it, fix me with a decent stare, then declare it hilarious. They find it that much funnier because I’m not a believer.
Yes, that’s what we call it. I don’t believe. I teach them the word atheist, but we don’t use it often. It scares the parents. They don’t get that they are more powerful than I will ever be, and that living an authentically good life is the best example they can set. They prefer to pawn it off on the atheist when their kids act up. It’s easier that way.
Students have asked me more than once why I don’t believe. I don’t get into it. And here’s the really weird reason why. I don’t want them to follow. While I am resigned in my belief system, I wouldn’t really wish it onto another person. There’s a lot of responsibility that comes with the realization that you are solely responsible for your actions. Each part of life is yours to determine, dictate, and to decide.
Faith has a number of really good coping mechanisms. First, if the community is good at all, there’s built-in love and support. Second, there’s always someone to pray for you, even if they don’t know you. It’s like having your back, only on a cosmic level. There’s shared vocabulary and intent. You have a tribe. I have to say, I think it’s pretty satisfying to never really doubt your decisions. If you want something badly enough, you can say you’re called to that action or item. God talked to you, you didn’t make that decision at all. If you’re going through hard times, you’re being tried by God to see if you are still faithful. Sometimes God tests your love and loyalty. Nothing in life is random.
There’s a lot of comfort in not being in charge.
At no point do I encourage kids to follow my path. It’s hard. It can be lonely. It’s downright daunting to figure out how to have an equivalent to prayer for people going through hard times. Let’s be honest, my call of “sending good vibes” sounds like I’ve been smoking illegal substances. You’re in my thoughts — hardly comforting. I’m responsible for everything I do in life, every decision, every action, every word. There are no rewards when it’s over, nor are there punishments. It’s up to me to decide if I’m satisfied with it all. And when it’s done…
Then all that’s left is whatever small, meager legacy I’ve built for myself.
I don’t guide students my way because it is, quite frankly, too hard. Better to sleep in the comfort of God’s safe arms.