A while back I found myself sitting in a hair salon waiting for my haircut. There was an old lady and her husband sitting next to me, and it got awkward real fast. There was something wrong with the man, I still don’t know what, that caused him to blurt out nonsense. He didn’t say actual words, just noises like, “Yip, yip, yip, YIP!!” I did what we all do in those situations, I pretended not to notice.
Apparently I wasn’t pretending very well because after a little bit she leaned over to me and apologized for his yipping. Then she proceeded to tell me a story about him. He was a Vietnam veteran who had done some horrible thing in the war. Apparently he had participated in some operation that dropped bombs and destroyed a village over there. It was a horrible time. She told me about how he had carried guilt about it for years and that it had always bothered him. One day he was watching a documentary and they covered the operation that he had participated in. Apparently the village had been evacuated before his bombs dropped, and this relieved a lot of his guilt.
So far so good, until she told me about what it looked like for his guilt to be relieved. She said she saw him sitting on the couch and literal waves were floating up off of him as the guilt left his body. “Oh” was all I could manage to say. What do you say to something like that, anyway? Fortunately my name was called and I didn’t have to think too hard on how to respond to her crazy story.
Then it occurred to me, don’t some of my stories as a Christian sound just as crazy as hers? Can I really blame an atheist or an agnostic for thinking about Christians what I thought about the lady in the hair salon? God is going to save the world by having a man tortured in the Middle East? Water into wine? What’s that about? Can I really blame the skeptic for being skeptical? After all, wouldn’t I be skeptical too if I was an atheist? It makes a certain sort of sense to raise an eyebrow at stories like ours.
It occurs to me, however, that any time we learn something new it will seem a little strange to us in some sense. If any idea doesn’t seem strange then it really isn’t new. Whenever we learn anything then by definition it must be different than what we already know. That’s just what it means to be “new”. I’m sure that the idea of a round world seemed strange to people back when everyone thought it was flat. I’m sure the idea of injecting a small dose of a virus into someone in order to protect them seemed strange as well. If you told a man a thousand years ago that we were going to land and walk on the moon, what would he have thought of you?
If you’re an atheist and you find our stories strange, I don’t blame you at all. They are strange. Perhaps it would be worthwhile, however, to ask, “Ok, these stories seem crazy…but am I willing to find out if they are true?”