Lts Brad and Wavie Webster and their daughters, Samantha and Emily (Photo: Janice Webster)Lts Brad and Wavie Webster and their daughters, Samantha and Emily (Photo: Janice Webster)

An Atheist’s Prayer

I didn’t believe in God. So why was I so angry with him?

May 19, 2017 by Lieutenant Brad Webster


“Daddy, who is God?”

As I helped my nine-year-old daughter get ready for school, her question took me by surprise—it seemed to come out of nowhere. In our house, belief in God wasn’t open for discussion. I was an atheist, with no use for faith.

I sent Samantha off to school without an answer, but I was troubled. Over the past two years, grief and anger had been tearing me—and my family—apart. We were in pieces. What could bring us back together?

Always There

I was born in Corner Brook, N.L., and we moved to Toronto when I was very young. Although I was christened as a baby, that was the extent of my experience with church. At school, I discovered a love for science and how it explained the world. I soon realized I didn’t believe in God.

When I was 11, my parents separated, and my mother and I moved in with my grandparents. I was angry and the anger came out in unhealthy ways. But no matter what trouble I got in, my grandmother was always there. She was the only one I could talk to—she became my best friend, my rock.

In 1997, I met Wavie, who was also from Newfoundland and Labrador, and we started dating. She grew up attending The Salvation Army, but had walked away from church.

After we got married, Wavie occasionally brought up God. I didn’t want to hear it and would shut the conversation down quickly. I even started reading the Bible to collect ammunition to use against people who wanted to talk to us about religion.

Our first daughter, Samantha, was born in 2001, and Emily followed in 2004. We had them dedicated at a Salvation Army corps to appease family—I still had no interest in God. My career was going well and life was good.

A Fractured Family

But then a crisis came. My grandmother was admitted to the hospital with a lifethreatening illness, and my world was shaken. Eventually, we had to make the difficult decision to take her off life support. She was moved to a private room and we gathered to say goodbye.

As I slumped against a wall outside the hospital room, I did something I’d never done before. I prayed desperately to a God I didn’t believe in. I vividly remember the words—God, if you exist, please don’t take my grandmother from me. Late that night, she passed away.

Once again, I found myself angry. How could I believe in a powerful God who could have taken us out of that situation, but chose not to? How could I believe in a God who let the one person in my life who had my back, no matter what, die? All I had left was anger. And the anger began to consume me and fracture my family.

For the next two years, there was never a very happy day.

Who is God?

And then came the morning when Samantha asked, “Who is God?”

Later that day, I called the nearest Salvation Army corps, Kitchener Community Church, Ont., and asked, “How do I come to church?” “You just come,” was the answer.

Two weeks later—I gave myself time to change my mind—we walked through the doors of the corps as a family. The corps officer, Major Dale Pilgrim, asked if I wanted to sit in on a Bible study class. The topic that morning was “Who do we say is God?” and the sermon focused on the Trinity.

We began attending the corps every week, and got involved. Wavie told me that she had felt called back to God for some time, but didn’t discuss it with me because I was dead set against it. Not long later, we met with Major Pilgrim and gave our lives to the Lord as a family.

Today, we are the corps officers in Leamington, Ont. When I look back on my life now, I can see that God was always there. He was there when my parents separated. He was there the day I picked up the Bible to gain ammunition against believers. He was there the day my grandmother passed away.

I thought I didn’t believe in God, but being angry with him was a confession of his existence, an acknowledgment of a relationship with him. Although I didn’t know it at the time, he was guiding me to him. And my daughter pointed the way.

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