Thursday, August 29, 2013
Thoughts of an Old Convert
Almost thirty years ago I experienced my adult conversion to Christianity. I grew up in the Baptist Church and always felt I was a Christian at heart, but in my late 30s I felt the call to be a Christian inside and out. Telling my women’s support group that I was giving my life to God was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done in my life. I was afraid, you see, that I’d become that person standing on a street corner forcing Bible tracts on passersby, stopping strangers to ask, “Do you know Jesus?” I was afraid that by giving my life to God I might end up being one of them. It was a relief to realize sometime later that God called me to be myself, and I did not have to hand out tracts. My renewed faith was at home in the Episcopal Church. I especially loved the Book of Common Prayer. I suppose it makes sense that a writer would join a church because its prayer book was well written. For years I began my day by reading the morning daily devotions in the Book of Common Prayer, and praying. It centered me at the start of my hectic day. I’ve returned to that practice recently. I did not evangelize my kids with a lot of specific teaching. I had this idea that who I was in my interactions with them (or anyone) was my evangelizing. If the way I lived was bogus, I figured nothing I said would make much difference. I didn’t realize that hypocrisy is part of being a parent. You can’t help it. Live and learn. I did tell the boys some things. I told them that the word “God” was a tiny little box which we used as a symbol when we were talking about something that was much too big and complex for a human to comprehend. I told them that every human being has a spirit, and that it is as much a part of you and integral to your being as your beating heart. You may not have a religion, but you definitely have a spirit. I told them that God is reality. God is the point where truth, light, life, death, mystery, enlightenment, etc.(!) all come together. I was thinking about those things this morning as I was sitting out on the ravine porch with my Book of Common Prayer, listening to the creek and praying for the people on my prayer list. It’s a long list. You might be on it. I was thinking how those things I thought and said years ago have proven to be true, and the longer you live in faith, the deeper you go into the layers of reality. Faith allows you to live in some kind of peace in this crazy, broken, world. God doesn’t fix everything for us, but does weep with us, hold us through all trials, and rejoice with us. Going beyond that, there are things in heaven and earth that we do not understand, and for which there is no empirical evidence. I cannot give you a rational explanation that would make miracles and visions comfortable for you. I’m not telling you to become an Episcopalian, or any other brand of religion. I am telling you that if you hear your call to be yourself, and you answer that call, that life will be hard, but if you don’t answer that call, life will be harder, and you’ll have missed the mark. I’m glad I answered that call years ago. Have I become me? In my halting, sporadic, human fashion, I’ve done the best I could. I believe that faith has served to make me better than I would have been otherwise, and looking back at all the times I screwed up, I know that I was usually following one of my own bright ideas and things got better when I let God steer me. It’s God for me, but for you who object to the nomenclature “God,” fine. You think about what you want to call your tiny little box that symbolizes everything that is real and true and incomprehensible, and nurtures and enlivens your spirit, and makes your life better than it might be if you do things “your way.” The walk of faith is so worth it. Good luck, pilgrims.