Many of you know my testimony, but if you don't here's the short version: for the first 22 years or so of my life, I was an adamant atheist. Adamant. At the age of 22, I got saved. Now, I'm married to a man walking the road of eldership in a small, yet thriving, church plant. Yes, a complete 180. I know.
This is a letter to my atheist self. I know, however, had I read this letter at the time, I still would have shrugged it off because God definitely still had a lot of work to do in my heart before I was ready to listen to something like this, no matter who it came from. Regardless, maybe there's someone out there that needs to hear the same thing right now, so here it goes.
Dear Atheist Self,
First and foremost, I want you to know that you are loved. I know that sometimes you feel as if you aren't, as if too many things in your life have confirmed that you're not worth loving and protecting, but I want you to know that you are deeply loved by your Father and his Son. You are BELOVED and treasured and made perfectly in God's image. You have a great defender. I know that doesn't make much sense to you right now, and probably sounds ridiculous, but when you come to understand this, you will experience a freedom and joy you never thought possible. You will be freed of this burden one day. Mark my word.
I know that you don't feel like you're lacking in the life you are currently living. I know that you think you're a good, humble, loving, and generous person that has come a long way, and you are, but you are also hiding from the brokenness you feel within yourself. You're trying to prove yourself and earn favor because, ultimately, you feel unworthy whether you are ready to admit that or not. I want you to know that you don't need to find your worth in others, especially those relationships where you are robbed of your dignity and self-respect, because your worth will only come from one place: God. And guess what? You don't have to earn it from Him.
Next, I ask that you try to listen more and talk less. It's normal to question, and you always will because that's your nature, but don't take it too far. Be the open minded person you claim to be. When Christians approach you and tell you about their Jesus, listen. Stop focusing on what your comeback will be and listen. Also, stop viewing them as naive. You will meet many highly educated Christians in the coming years that are anything but naive.
This next one might come as a surprise but I want you to know that, yes, you are right, Christians ARE hypocrites. You're smart. Yes, Christians will not always practice what they preach because they are sinners. They will always be hypocrites, and that's alright. But guess what? You're also a hypocrite. Most people are. The good thing about Christians though, atheist, is that many of them are willing to admit to this hypocrisy. To admit that they don't have it all figured out and are in need of help. That's somewhere you struggle, friend. This is why we need Jesus, yes, even you.
Atheist, you don't have to be perfect to come to Jesus. I know those nuclear families that have generations of history in the church and speak confusing Christian-ese terrify you because you feel like they'll never understand where you came from, and I'm going to be honest, sometimes that will feel lonely. Sometimes it will be hard to be the one with a tough history, but I want you to know that everyone in the church is broken. Their brokenness might not look the same, but everyone is broken and everyone has their crap. Don't let that deter you.
I'll also warn you that it will be very hard to be an introvert in a church. I will warn you that not all churches value introverts in the same way they do extroverts, but I want you to know that God will use your introverted-ness for good. You don't have to be a perky, young-life-going person to know Jesus. Stop putting Christians in that box, atheist. I also want you to know that Christians aren't as boring as you think they are and that you won't have to become a cookie-cutter, bland Christian that doesn't have any fun. You will not only be able to be yourself more fully, but you'll know yourself more fully as a Christian. The good and the bad.
Finally, I want you to forgive more. Stop damaging the relationships where the other person hurts you or doesn't hold up "their end" of the friendship. Don't hold so many grudges. Forgiveness will be something you always struggle with, but once you understand the ultimate act of forgiveness, this will become easier for you. But for now, stop being surprised when you get hurt and stop taking it so personally. It's not all about you, dear. Love well even when it isn't deserved because, one day, you will realize that you are loved in a way that is undeserved as well.
You are wonderfully made,
Your Christian Self