The wonderful thing about life is that we all can change. The future is not settled. We have the capacity to surprise and delight God in the decisions that we make. Even an atheist can change!
In the famous story, A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge, in reference to the tombstone which he saw in the vision, asks: “Are these the shadows of the things that will be, or are they the shadows of the things that may be, only?” Scrooge adds: “Men’s course will foreshadow certain ends to which, if persevered in, they must lead, but if the courses be departed form, the ends will change.”
Scrooge pleads: “Assure me that I may yet change these shadows you have thrown at me, by an altered life. Oh, tell me that I may sponge away the writing on this stone.” (Narrative help from Clark H. Pinnock, Most Moved Mover)
Ebenezer Scrooge wanted to know if the future was still open; if he could in fact, shape it, choose differently, and write a new story with his life. He wanted to know if his actions could affect it. And the story goes on to answer that question.
Can people change? Specifically, can an atheist change? Can one who has built this very complex philosophical structure around their lives, abandon a worldview that is unable to answer the deeper life questions? Can one turn his or her back on rationalizations once held dear? Can an atheist actually become a theist, who honors their true Creator and live their life for Him? Can an atheist be brave enough to challenge the arguments of his or her atheistic friends because the evidence has begun to point toward theism?
Yes, a thousand times, “Yes!”
Elie(zer) Wiesel, the concentration camp survivor, remarked: “God made man because he loves stories.” I want to modify his statement slightly. “God made man with free will because he loves stories with surprise endings.” All human beings, especially atheists, have the capacity to surprise and delight God with the decisions that we make. He’s watching your story and has been for a long time.
You’ve been writing a story all your life, a story full of unique characters, some that make you laugh, others that make you cry; a story that has taken place in a variety of settings and locations, some pleasant, some not so pleasant; and a story that has had many digressions of plot which have taken you down many roads, some of which were dead-end ally-ways.
Christmas says that there needs to be a chapter written into the story of your life where character, setting, and plot all converge into a moment – a here and now moment; a moment when you realize that God has been tracking your story all along the way; a moment when you realize that you’ve had many opportunities to surprise and delight Him, to turn the plot of your life into a favorable, God-honoring direction. And for whatever reason, your life story has taken a different path.
The greatest application of what we as human beings have experienced at Christmas would be for us to turn the pen over to God and say “God, you write my story now. I need Someone who can take all the bits and pieces, all the bad decisions, and self-centered chapters, the selfish streaks, the ugly impulses, the lust and the hate and the simple ambition to make something of myself – Someone who can take all of this complexity and conundrums and weave it into an incredible, surprise ending.
Don Miller gives a wonderful talk on the subject of story. He suggests in his talk that God begins from our mistakes. We make a mistake and God says, “Well, I didn’t necessarily want that in your story, but let’s begin again from there and let me use it in some incredible, unsuspecting way.”
Time after time, because of our free will, God has pieces and characters and locations thrown at Him, and at times, we are doubtful that He could do anything redeeming with it. And yet He writes on, and creates something beautiful, even inspiring from all the pieces, even atheistic pieces. God will even take the pieces of “atheism” and weave it into a grand theme for a God-honoring life if you will, but allow Him to do it.
It’s not the evil that we do in our stories that amazes me; it’s the good that comes from the evil that we do (and this includes everybody by the way, not just atheists!). How does God do it? How does he create so much good from bad? There is no decision that God cannot use, no character beyond his reach, no plot that He cannot turn, no setting that he cannot remake and renew. Every lie told, every dollar taken, every promise broken, every bad attitude, every virtue we’ve abandoned, every opportunity we’ve wasted, God can use all of it for good in your story, but you’ve got to give Him the pen. God is a great writer, and you’ll love the surprise ending.
But can someone like an atheist change; someone who has even denied that there is even a Story-teller? You bet. Just ask Scrooge. And maybe this blog could represent a “new character” in your story, that points toward the one true God, Lover of all men, and Friend of humanity.
The future is not set in stone; you can change. Shape a better future this Christmas. Write a better story over this holiday season. And tell me about it (don’t allow your atheistic friends to intimidate you; you have a place at my table). I’d love to read your story.