What do you fear? Do you fear death?
I appreciate Mira’s question because it always forces me to consider my priorities and do a little self-examination which, to be honest, I don’t do often enough.
My Past Panic
I recall viewing the life of an atheist to be like the journey of a tightrope walker without a net. Should she tumble, there would be no salvation from the tragic drop. Jesus was to me like a safety net that kept me from falling to my doom. If anything unpleasant could happen in the future, I had the hope that it would all work out for my good and that someone loved and cared for me enough to have a good plan for my life. Oh, and of course I would go to Heaven later, so really, shouldn’t that guard me from all fear? Sadly, this ideal didn’t work out well in practice.
As a believer who valued my faith as my most prized possession, I still feared just about everything: sinning, caring what others thought of me, conflict, loss, disappointing God by not fulfilling his will for my life, and the list goes on. Let’s take a tiny glimpse into my thoughts back in the day:
Does God want me to major in Communications or Marketing? How far is too far with my boyfriend? Is lying to save someone’s life a sin? Oh no, I missed church again! My sexuality is shameful, but I can’t stop desiring physical affection. Should I be Catholic or Messianic? If I die without repenting my sins, will I be shamed in front of God? Please God, tell me what to do! Am I sinning by feeling a call to the mission field and then not pursuing it? I don’t pray as much as she does; does that mean I’m a bad Christian? What if I choose the wrong Bible translation to read? How do I know when I’ve met “the one?” What if I don’t believe in Hell anymore? What job should I apply for? I feel so ashamed that I dislike evangelism so much. What if I’m not praying hard enough for my father to be healed? Could he die because I didn’t have enough faith? What if…? Which one…? Help!
One reason for all this anxiety was a lack of self-confidence. Because I could only trust God and not myself to be strong, capable, or to make the right choices, I was constantly doubting my own abilities and decisions. Not having a true freedom of choice, I was left to rely on guesswork about God’s will. If things went wrong, it was probably my fault. I was a fearful Christian, despite having a hope of salvation and love from God.
My Present Peace
Mira, I’m not going to lie and say I don’t fear anything. Here’s a nice list:
- I have a phobia of large ships.
- I’m afraid of someone I love dying suddenly. Because that’s terribly sad and difficult, and I don’t enjoy grief.
- I become anxious when confronted with something difficult I have to do for the first time–especially when I don’t know how to do it.
- I fear (or rather, I try to avoid) the emotions of embarrassment, shame, loneliness, and sadness.
- I do fear failure.
- I fear violence upon my person.
Do I also fear death? Not in the sense that I fear what comes after death, because I do not think anything happens except body decay and a recycling of my physical self back into the earth and thus the universe of which I am such a tiny part. I think the only times I fear death are when I consider the many horrific ways there are to die. My morbid mind has watched too much news and too much dramatic television. I don’t want to be scared, in pain, or to die without my loved ones around me. Other than that, I don’t fear death. I have one life, and that is all; that is fine.
Being an atheist certainly is living life on a wire. Instead of fearing a fall to the ground, I train harder, try to make better decisions, and concentrate on building myself and my confidence so I can make it across. No one–and no net–is going to save me.
Is this scary? I don’t think so. In fact, I am happier about who I am and what value I hold even more than when I claimed the Creator of the Universe loved me and spoke to me on a personal basis. My ego has shrunk, and reality has helped me live a better life.
No one has a plan for my life but me. My choices are my own. My mistakes don’t have eternal consequences and rewards; they have real consequences, and I need to care about them. I don’t have to guess what some other person thinks is right or wrong; I am responsible unto myself and the law of the land.