The picture on the cover of our bimonthly this month is not just a beautiful reminder of the season, but it is also a commentary on where I am personally in life's seasons, and how faith in God affects the various seasons of our lives.  I have watched loved ones with no belief in God deal with the various seasons of life, and I have dealt with many friends and colleagues who have dealt with these seasons and all of this offers a strong apologetic for belief in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

Life begins with a very spring-like season.  It is a time of rapid growth, freshness, innocence, and freedom.  The beauty and joy of childhood can be taken away by all kinds of things--disease, death of loved ones, poverty, and abuse just to name a few.  These things can come upon all children, but they are almost inevitably caused by humans, especially the most horrific ones.  In my life as the child of an atheist, death was the ultimate tragedy.  My wife, on the other hand, experienced the death of her father when she was five, but the faith of the family minimized the impact of that death upon her happiness.  Her childhood was still beautiful and she has nothing but fond memories of all of those who were part of her church family.  I never knew about death as a child, and one of the first conflicts between my wife-to-be and my mother occurred when we were dating and my wife's mother took us to a visitation for a classmate's father.  To my wife's family, death has always been a natural thing that was not a time of darkness and unhappiness but the beginning of something better for the deceased and an opportunity to serve for the Church.  To my parents death was the ultimate tragedy, and it was something one did not talk about--much less expose a child or even a teenager to.  My mother was incensed that someone would take her son to a visitation where he actually saw his first dead person.

The summer of life is the time when childhood ends and adult responsibility takes over.  This transition is difficult, and can in fact be overwhelming. Finding a career, making decisions about family, politics, religion, and building security can be very difficult.  In my case there were the complications of having chronic disease in my mate, having a child born with multiple birth defects, and being opposed by family because of the choices we made about faith and family.  The atheistic approach of my parents had always been that one must watch his back and take care of what is best for himself.  The guiding principle was survival of the fittest in a dog-eat-dog world.  The notion of marrying someone who had a chronic disease (in our case, diabetes) and of raising a child that they felt should be institutionalized was contradictory to conventional wisdom.  When my faith in God led me to a ministry that involved sacrifice and offered no financial gain I was considered to be incredibly foolish.  "This is not what people who want to succeed in life do," my father told me.  I was sent to the family doctor who had been instructed to prove to me that marrying a diabetic was suicidal and would bring me nothing but misery and poverty.  When we were faced with the decision of whether to institutionalize our child or not, the same doctor tried to force institutionalization by going to the involved agency himself.  When I decided to be a teacher instead of the medical doctor that my father wanted me to become, I incurred the wrath of my parents.  I was told I would be poor all my life, that I would not be respected or esteemed in the community, and that my talents would be wasted.  Much of that has turned out to be true, but as a believer in God what matters in life is more than money and esteem.  The joy of serving others is something one learns as a Christian.  The satisfaction and joy in feeling one has done something worthwhile in life means more than those in the world can understand.

The summer of life can be very hard.  There are many battles, many disappointments, and some heartbreak.  Hopefully the choices we have made make the later parts of the summer of life see some success.  My most satisfying successes have not been in what I accomplished financially or professionally because those have been minimal.  The satisfying successes have been in seeing what God has done.  This is something that is guaranteed to Christians and that no person outside of Christ can comprehend.  These successes do not depend upon education, money, IQ, or politics.  They involve the response others make to what God brings to their lives through you.  The older one gets the more he realizes that helping someone heal their marriage, or bring their child out of destructive environments, or bring joy to someone who has suffered physical or mental damage brings enormous satisfaction and joy. God does the work, but you become the agent through which that happens, and everything else that happens becomes secondary to the feeling of worth and accomplishment.

I am now in the autumn of my life.  As I enter my seventh decade of existence I know that I have far more time behind me than I do in front of me.  Like the picture on our cover, I see beauty in everything I look at, from the face of a baby to the beauty of the night sky.  My perspective has changed.  I now take time to look at what is around me, and I am much less disturbed by the things that used to upset me.  My aggressiveness has subsided in everything from my driving to my reaction to stupidity in the political world.  My favorite line now is, "If it isn't of eternal significance, I don't want to hear about it."  As a Christian, I have no regrets about financial decisions that may have been bad or missed. The things that I wanted to do that never got done are not a concern.  The fact that death is approaching, when I shall leave this world does not fill me with dread.  The anxiety that I see in my atheist friends are not a part of my makeup.  I can understand the confidence that Paul expresses as he was late in his autumn of life when he says,  "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day--and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing" (2 Timothy 4:7-8, NIV).

As an atheist, one can say that this is just a great self-deception, and a fostering of a grand illusion, but one cannot deny that the peace and the effect it has on me as an individual is real and unique.  The evidence for God's existence and His active role in our lives can be seen in many ways.  The beauty of autumn is just one of them.  Do not live your life according to the assumptions of naturalism, chance, and survival of the fittest.  Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and all these things [what you need in life] will be added to you.

--John N. Clayton

Back to Contents Does God Exist?, SepOct08.