The exceptionalism of Jesus Christ was his livelihood, and yet he could not bring himself to believe it.
The Reads’ little red Honda scooted down the narrow driveway along the rail fence of the Christmas tree farm. It was December of 1993; Amanda was a little girl of three years going on four and Rachel was a baby. The cold, snowy winter of Ithaca, New York left everything outside dense, quiet and white – Narnia white. Christmas was coming, and the celebration of Advent was a new family tradition. The anticipation of Christmas Day became a remembrance of the anticipation of the Savior’s coming, and a rekindler still more of the anticipation of His return. One classic symbol included was the Christmas tree; its evergreen nature a symbol of eternal life.
The Christmas tree farmer stood at the gate to discuss their Christmas tree selection. “I’m an atheist.” How the subject came about is not remembered, but the man made it clear that he had nothing to do with this Christ everyone was celebrating. Amanda stared hard at the fellow. She hadn’t seen an atheist before. He stood there with his toboggan pulled tight around his ears, his nose in the air as he beat snow off his gloves. “Watch out for the ice there,” he told the little girl. “You could slip and fall.” It is easy to underestimate the mental capacity of a child. Children do stupid things – do they ever have even a halfwit reason?
The little girl kept trying to imagine what it would be like to live without believing God exists. If God is love, and you don’t believe in God, can you still love? If God has standards for what is right and what is wrong, and you don’t believe in God, can you still believe in right and wrong? She edged her foot out across the smooth ice. If I stepped out on the ice and slipped when the atheist told me not to, what would he do? Just like that, Amanda decided to risk injury for an experiment she might not get the chance to repeat. She stepped out on the frozen puddle and began obeying every law of gravity and friction that she didn’t know existed. The atheist Christmas tree farmer caught her arm before she went under. Perhaps Amanda resembled a wee polliwog on the evolutionary scale that needed to be saved from extinction. Perhaps, being an atheist, the Christmas tree farmer knew what it was like to step out on ice everyday, cheekily experimenting to see if God would suddenly appear to rescue him. Or perhaps, being a human made in the image of God, the Christmas tree farmer was obeying every law of reason and compassion ingrained in him that he didn’t know existed. If you were to ask him, the Christmas tree farmer would probably say that he recognized the rational reality of slippery ice and concussions and God had nothing to do with it. If you were to ask the adult Amanda Read, she could just as easily disregard the atheist’s existence and say it was the hand of God alone who saved her skull. But one of the two knows better than to say either. Feel free to experiment until you find out. Yet do be careful around the ice.
Jesus Christ was his thriving business, yet he loved Him not. Jesus provided for the atheist Christmas tree farmer well. One can only hope that he personally thanks Him for it before it is too late.
This is a true short story that was originally written for the Cross-Eyed Blog and Webzine, but due to certain constraints it was never published and has now been posted on Sincerely Amanda later than it should have been.