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Adversity In Agnosticism
He chose an altar off to the side with sporadic wicks lit and one row completely untouched. He wasn’t alone in the church; people prayed for loved ones- children for their mothers and fathers, sisters for their brothers and others for themselves. “Forgive me father, for I have sinned,” one man said. He shook his head. “You don’t know what sin is, child,” he whispered to himself. He stayed so long, so still, staring for hours at the empty row. The pastor came up behind him and watched him silently, hands clasped in front of him. “Why is this row empty?”
“You have not yet prayed.” The man turned. “I don’t know who to pray for.” A tear landed on someone’s flame; he quickly re-lit it. He looked so distressed that the pastor told him.
“Pray for your family.”
He lit a single candle for his mother, father, his sister, brother, his half sibling with the city streets in his head and for his other self. He prayed for love, happiness, strength and passion, for devotion and faith. He lit the candle for red hair, bravery, loss, remembrance, freedom and singularity. For his cowboy lunchbox, the paper airplane, and quiet geese that walked barefoot among his dreams.
“Pray for your friends.”
He lit a candle for refuge, security, loyalty and betrayal, wisdom, strength, obstinacy and broken hearts. He prayed silently for grey hair and a beautiful smile, for a comforting hand and a first kiss. He prayed for lonely nights and phone calls, for re-read books and broken glasses with lose screws, for empty bottles of drowned misery and hidden tears. For mistakes and sacrifices. He lit a candle for pride and honor.
“Pray for your acquaintances.”
He prayed for discoveries and life, for sunshine and families, for yellow houses and picket fences, for sight and hearing and touch. He lit his third candle for those he’d helped and those he put away. For the healthy and the sick, the weak and the strong, the remembered and the forgotten. For those he saved and those he could not; for those who wouldn’t let him.
“Pray for your strangers.”
The little girl who waved at him from the window of the school bus, the homeless man on the corner who asked God to bless him for his quarter, for the angry old lady at the pawn shop and the pregnant woman in the park. For the lawyer on the phone and the musician on the street corner, he lit a candle.
“Pray for your enemies.”
For Annie and Faith, caught in the crossfire. For their lies, hatred, anger. For every life they destroyed for every child they stole and every sibling they killed for every friend they hardened and every teacher they corrupted. He prayed on his fifth candle for forgiveness for their every sin.
“Pray for the World.”
As he lit the sixth flame, he thought about the state of affairs, the pain and suffering against the light and the joy that shadowed the world. He prayed for the people who had everything and gave nothing and for the people who had nothing and gave everything.
“Pray for yourself.”
He lit a seventh candle he lit in utter silence, without the whispers of his mind. And though the candle glowed brightly, he could not bring himself to say a prayer, other then to plead forgiveness he was convinced he didn’t deserve. He stared solemnly at the row of flames for several moments, before turning, hands in pockets and, head lowered, he walked away. The Pastor called after him, “Do you feel any freer, son?” He stopped and let the silence lapse.
The pastor frowned. “What’s the matter?”
He stared at the light from under the chapel doors and sighed, staying somber and silent as time crept by. “Son?” the pastor questioned, but was received with only silence and a slight tilt of his head part way over his shoulder. “Son?”
He sighed and raised his head, and just before striding determinedly away, answered, more to himself then to the pastor,
“I don’t believe in God.”
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