Ever since coming to faith and seeing my past in a new light as someone who had unknowingly been an instrument of God on a number of occasions (details galore can be found in my book, Blest Atheist), I have been grappling with the question, why would God use an atheist. And why would I, the least knowledgeable Catholic around (I peer into the depths of my lack of knowledge every time I teach a catechism class) be tasked to do anything, represent anything, or share my thinking on anything? As I stumble around in the “cloud of unknowing,” a place where I am increasingly comfortable and from where I do not want to leave, people, especially writers I encounter, shine inspired rays here and there into my tucha (Russian: a dark rain cloud, through which the sun cannot penetrate), momentarily turning the expanse immediately before me into an oblako (Russian: a light cloud, through which the sun does shine). Two such rays have illuminated my question as to why God would use an atheist for His purposes.
The first ray came from The Book of Privy Counseling. The answer there was quite simple: God uses atheists and flawed people in general “because He can.” I loved that explanation. It allowed me to accept not knowing and to keep on accepting new tasks, the latter having already become a habitualized response but the former having been earlier disquieting.
Recently, though, in reading Fr. Richard Rohr’s Things Hidden, I came across a suggestion, the second ray, that seemed to explain even better the possible reason for my sundry taskings. “Usually, in fact,” writes Fr. Richard, “they [those tasked or used as instruments] are quite flawed or at least ordinary people, so it is clear that their power is not their own.” Now that makes a lot of sense to me, at last in my current stage of spiritual undevelopment. Certainly, the events that led to saving the life of Shura, a talented child artist from Siberia, about whom I have posted on both 100th Lamb and Clan of Mahlou, were well beyond my own power,
I think there may be another reason, too. If an atheist like I was could be used so extensively that some called me “God’s agent in Jordan” (only to become highly confused when they found out I was an atheist), anyone can be used. Perhaps that is an underlying message: God can and will use anyone and everyone if they just permit it. After all, in spite of how the situation confused so many, I probably was God’s agent in Jordan. The message speaks volumes about the power, love, and creativity of God, who can and will achieve divine ends to help His people (all people being His) through anyone, even an outspoken atheist.
Hah! I made my own ray of illumination here! The actual situation, though, is that I still don’t know a definitive answer. These are just my ruminations of today. Maybe I will be given to know more and maybe not. Whether or not I ever learn more no longer matters to me here in my “Cloud of Unknowing” comfort zone, where I am a part of the droplets that form its endless expanse and they are part of me. I feel that I am loved. Knowledge beyond that is unessential.
Double-posted on 100th Lamb and Modern Mysticism.