The following is part of my series on atheism and faith.
Where is God in the world?
…and if a person hasn’t yet experienced God, how do you know God exists?
This was the question put to me by a family member. Here’s the answer I wish I’d given them.
I have no functional memory of my parents for the first three years of my life. But I’m sure I wasn’t an orphan.
My earliest memory is a fleeting image of my mother. I see her opening a hallway closet in the house I lived in until I was three. She hands me a flute. That’s it. I have no memory of my father living there, or of my three siblings in that house. I don’t remember my bedroom or the kitchen. The only memory I have from those first two years of life is that flute.
It’s a medical mystery why we don’t remember our earliest years. It’s sad because I’m sure yours and mine were full of wonder and love. And it makes me sad when my own children say they don’t remember their early years with me–save but from pictures and videos. But the thing is, I remember them, …and they were magical. Your lack of memory doesn’t diminish the profound way in which I was part of your life.
I’m enjoying being a grandfather these days. But I know that if I died tomorrow, at best I’d be something like the memory of a flute to them. But it doesn’t mean I wasn’t there. And perhaps that’s a clue about God’s quietness. God is enjoying being part of our lives, even when we don’t feel we are part of his.
I believe God exists because I have heard the universe whispering his name and have felt the presence of “other” in a profound way. And in spite of the religious noise, that experience is non-transferable and beyond words. I can only point and tell you what I heard. The rest is up to you and that “other.”
To a child, remembering the past begins sometime after age three. To a child of God, that awakening can come at any time, even beyond it. There is no ticking countdown on God’s love.