Wearing a mask is something I wrestled with from the very beginning of my questioning journey because I was known as a believer. My real life friends. My colleagues. Social media followers. Heck, I’d gone on national media many times and taught thousands at Christian conferences coast to coast – leaving millions to know that one descriptor about me: believer.
I lost countless nights of sleep, laboring under the worry that by being quiet about my questioning, I was lying to the public. It felt like my only options were “Christian” or “Atheist” and I had no time to think through either one because every day was another day spent possibly wearing a mask. So, I began writing from the perspective of not believing in a god or God at all.
I’m still walking all that out.
At the time of this writing, I was the President and CEO of a non-profit focused on using entertainment to bend culture toward a better place.
Week 2, Day 4
I met with a potential new Board member today. He’s potential in name only, really. The Board will vote by email over the weekend and I’m sure they’ll all vote in the affirmative. This was my first face-to-face meeting with him. All of our communication to this point was by email and phone.
It was awkward.
Not outwardly, but within my mind. He spoke of being “led by the Spirit” and how “the Lord orders our steps” and “as God would have it” and we prayed before our meal. During that prayer, he said all of the things that I said in my prayers for decades. He even opened his prayer as my little family has opened theirs for years, “Come, Lord Jesus.” Gave thanks for the food. Asked for protection and provision for others, etc.
I felt nothing in the way of communication with another being.
This was my first experience since starting this journey of uncoupling in which I prayed with someone who (a) believes, (b) does not know of my inner journey, and (c) is not in my family. I sat in that booth, listening to this very intelligent man ask a deity that I do not believe exists for protection and provision and thanking him for the food on the table and I thought, “Shouldn’t we thank the cook for making it, the waitress for bringing it, and be satisfied with ourselves for working to make the money that bought it?”
He then shared a story with me of his youngest son. The son stayed home from camps yesterday due to sickness and he let the boy play on his iPad unsupervised. A little while later, he smelled a burning scent and began combing through the house to locate its source. He found it when he discovered the iPad underneath a pillow, an app still running, and heat building.
“Imagine if the Lord hadn’t kept me home with him, you know?” the man asked me.
I choked back my real response and shook my head. “Goodness,” I said instead.
But what if the kid’s iPad had caught fire? What if it burned the entire house down? What if, tragically, it harmed his son in the process or even took the child’s life?
Would that still have been the Lord’s provision in this man’s eyes?
There would have been platitudes about living in a broken world, suffering the fallout from original sin, how god is still on his throne even in the bad times (Psalm 47:8), how he knows his son is in a better place and he’ll see him again one day. There’d probably be a reference to Job. And then maybe something about how the rain falls on the just and unjust (Matthew 5:45).
In the entire scenario, god would not be held accountable for a negative outcome. That would be the human’s fault. Further, God would be given the credit for creating a positive second life and home for the son that he evidently was too impotent to prevent being taken away in the first place.
It’s hard to have all that swirling in my mind while the man before me has no idea and is continuing to talk about god as if he exists and is a positive, loving presence in the man’s life. It’s hard because I feel like I’m lying.
I don’t like lying.
I hate needing to keep up with what I’ve said – I don’t have the memory for that – and I don’t like feeling less than real and honest and genuine about anything with anyone.
Back when I was into sin and hell and all that jazz, I longed to list every single sin I could remember committing – big, small, didn’t matter – on my blog and be done with it. There’s too much wrapped up in worrying if someone will uncover a sin and tell other people and then that person will tell another and pretty soon everybody thinks they know you or at least that they have some sort of power over you because they know the thing they’re guessing you don’t want anyone to know…when, in reality, I’m all good with everybody knowing all my stuff. It’s easier.
And I don’t have many things I’ve done that I regret anyway. I have things that Christians classify as “sin” and I have things that others would call “wrong” of course, especially my “big” sins, but I took those actions after a lot of thought about right and wrong, caring and not caring, kindness and meanness, living versus existing. I also took them in an abandoned exploration of the boundaries of feeling and experiencing and knowing and trying.
If Eve were real, I’m sure she bit that fruit with curiosity flooding her mind.
Curiosity is a precious experience. It pushes me to wonder and seek and partake. And then, when I do reach into the unknown, that same curiosity opens the door to my mind wide so that all the experience can flood in. I can note the touch and taste and feel and sound of the thing before me and around me.
Of course I’m talking about sex, but I’m talking about more than that. So much more. I’m talking about that surreal, altogether ethereal yet solid place where the everyday of a handshake becomes instead a time to hold on, to look deep into another’s eyes, to know and be known and say words that are true instead of expected. To feel the calloused palm against my own, the warm pads of fingers pressing into the back of my hand, to gauge the surety or uncertainty present in the movement itself. To lean into that everyday motion, ever so slightly, and find that it has nothing common within. That, instead, it is an opportunity to leave behind the buzzing cell phone and cacophony of surrounding conversation and spinning world and open wide, drink in, see and know.
It’s taking the bite of fruit and becoming god-like.
Fully knowing and drenching myself in the wonder of living right here, today, surrounded by beings both like and entirely unlike myself.
I can’t live like that when I’m putting on a face that isn’t mine, when I’m pretending to agree with or believe in what is being said.
Pretending requires a costume, if only of expression. A mask.
I wore a mask in my lunch meeting today.
And I did not like it.