For the past several months, I've been in frequent touch with a non-believer; someone who considers herself an atheist, or more precisely, a naturalist. Her worldview is focused on science and what can be observed and understood through earthly means.
Our paths first crossed after my 13-year-old daughter had made the comment that it takes a wider leap of faith to believe there isn't a God than to believe God exists. I ended up blogging about that, and inadvertently met my new friend. We've been sending email messages back and forth on an almost-weekly basis ever since.
I know not every Christian would dare step into this terrain. And I wouldn't recommend it for just anyone. Of course, we all have the right to share and talk about our faith, but going head to head with someone skilled in debating such things is not for the faint of heart. Thanks be to God, my heart and soul are very strong right now and I feel capable and willing to do this. I've been given what I need to enter into this relationship with courage, conviction and compassion (perhaps the most important of the three). It's not always easy. Some of our conversations have left me utterly frustrated, and I know she feels the same. But most of the time the opposite is true, and I've felt blessed by our encounters.
Recently, one of my Christian friends said it would be very hard for her to be in such a conversation; that she doesn't feel the need to have to defend her faith to anyone. As I said earlier, I don't think everyone is cut out for this. For some, it would be a waste of time and energy. And it's possible I will get to a point at which it will begin to feel too burdensome, and that I'm taking too much time away from other important things. But for now, I'm drawn to the conversation, even on the tougher days, because I sense that God is in all of it, and that He'll let me know when and whether enough is enough. I have no expectations of what will come of our conversations other than the feeling that I'm in the right place right now.
For the time being, I feel fortunate to have had a chance to really work on finding common ground with someone whose belief system is so very different from my own. And believe it or not, we have found quite a bit of sameness. We are the same age and we are both sensitive yet convicted people. We examine life thoughtfully and try to be earnest about making the right choices based on our respective views.
Recently, I came across a line in the book I'm reading of Edith Stein's (St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross) personal letters. Among her gifts, Edith was a spiritual mentor to many, and in the middle of a letter in which she is responding to the faith questions of one of her fellow religious sisters, she says, "It is good when you ask me questions. I think only in response to challenges. Otherwise my mind rests. But I am glad when it is given a nudge and can be useful to someone." (Edith Stein: Self-Portrait in Letters, p. 319).
As she does so often, St. Teresa mimics my own heart here. In my current conversation with my non-believing friend, one of the benefits to me has been keeping my views sharp, but there's also a small strain of hope that someday my friend will be able to see God with her heart. For both of these reasons, I will continue reaching across the abyss for as long as I'm able.
Q4U: When have you reached across an abyss, and what was the result?
Copyright 2011 Roxane Salonen
About the Author
Roxane B. Salonen, a wife and mother of five from Fargo, N.D., is an award-winning children’s author and freelance writer who also enjoys Catholic radio hosting and speaking. Roxane co-authored former Planned Parenthood manager Ramona Trevino’s memoir, Redeemed by Grace. Her work is featured on "Peace Garden Passage" at her website, roxanesalonen.com