How do I tell you about my conversion to Christianity without making it sound like an alien abduction or a train wreck? Truth be told, it felt like a little of both. The language normally used to describe this odd miracle does not work for me. I didn’t read one of those tacky self-help books with a thin coating of Christian themes, examine my life against the tenets of the Bible the way one might hold up one car insurance policy against all others and cleanly and logically “make a decision for Christ.” While I did make choices along the path of this journey, they never felt logical, risk-free, or sane. Neither did I feel like the victim of an emotional/spiritual earthquake and collapse gracefully into the arms of my Savior, like a holy and sanctified Scarlett O’Hara having been “claimed by Christ’s irresistible grace.” Heretical as it might seem, Christ and Christianity seemed eminently resistible. (Kindle: 177)
Christians always seemed like bad readers to me, too. They appeared to use the Bible in a way that Marxists would call “vulgar”—that is, common, or in order to bring the Bible into a conversation to stop the conversation, not deepen it. “The Bible says” always seemed to me like a mantra that invited everyone to put his or her brain on hold. “The Bible says” was the Big Pause before the conversation stopped. Their catch phrases and clichés were (and are) equally off-putting. “Jesus is the answer” seemed to me then and now like a tree without a root. Answers come after questions, not before. Answers answer questions in specific and pointed ways, not in sweeping generalizations.
Ken stressed that he accepted me as a lesbian but that he didn’t approve of me as a lesbian.
I learned the first rule of repentance: that repentance requires greater intimacy with God than with our sin. How much greater? About the size of a mustard seed. Repentance requires that we draw near to Jesus, no matter what. And sometimes we all have to crawl there on our hands and knees. Repentance is an intimate affair. And for many of us, intimacy with anything is a terrifying prospect.
Conversion put me in a complicated and comprehensive chaos. I sometimes wonder, when I hear other Christians pray for the salvation of the “lost,” if they realize that this comprehensive chaos is the desired end of such prayers.
Sometimes in crisis, we don’t really learn lessons. Sometimes the result is simpler and more profound: sometimes our character is simply transformed.
A mistake is a logical misstep. Sin lurks in our heart and grabs us by the throat to do its bidding. (Kindle: 871)
This experience taught me a powerful lesson about evangelism: The integrity of our relationships matters more than the boldness of our words.
Even when faced with the blinding sting of someone else’s sin, it really is not someone else’s sin that can hurt us. It is our own festering sin that takes the guise of innocence that will be the undoing of us all.
What good Christians don’t realize is that sexual sin is not recreational sex gone overboard. Sexual sin is predatory. It won’t be “healed” by redeeming the context or the genders. Sexual sin must simply be killed. What is left of your sexuality after this annihilation is up to God. But healing, to the sexual sinner, is death: nothing more and nothing less. I told my audience that I think too many young Christian fornicators plan that marriage will redeem their sin. Too many young Christian masturbators plan that marriage will redeem their patterns. Too many young Christian internet pornographers think that having legitimate sex will take away the desire to have illicit sex. They’re wrong. And the marriages that result from this line of thinking are dangerous places. I know, I told my audience, why over fifty percent of Christian marriages end in divorce: because Christians act as though marriage redeems sin. Marriage does not redeem sin. Only Jesus himself can do that. The audience seemed a little shocked to hear this.
The more God-centered our worship practice, the more mercy-centered our life. Worship is our rehearsal for how to live today and how to glorify God in heaven. It is not merely a Sunday morning exercise meant to make us feel good.
Learning to be refreshed in the context of intense labor is important spiritual work. God truly gave us what we needed. When Christ was at the center, we learned to “draft” off God’s word the way cyclists draft off of another cyclist during a long race. Perhaps even more importantly, when Christ was at the center, we learned to say no and to close the door.
I learned, during those years, that the idea that one is ever too busy to pray is delusion of the most dangerous variety.
Over the years, I have contemplated what this really means. What does it really mean to “lack fellowship”? At least as it regards the handful of families that showed immediate excitement and then after a month a changed heart, this is what “lacking fellowship” means. It means that the family needs to be in a church made up of people who are just like they, who raise their children using the same childrearing methods, who take the same stance on birth control, schooling, voting, breastfeeding, dress codes, white flour, white sugar, gluten, childhood immunizations, the observance of secular and religious holidays. We encountered families who feared diversity with a primal fear. They often told us that they didn’t want to “confuse” their children by exposing them to differences in parenting standards among Christians. I suspect that they feared that deviation from their rules might provide a window for children to see how truly diverse the world is and that temptation might lead them astray. Over and over and over again I have heard this line of thinking from the fearful and the faith-struggling. We in the church tend to be more fearful of the (perceived) sin in the world than of the sin in our own hearts. Why is that?
When God brings children out of neglect, abuse, dysfunction, gangs, drugs, and hate, and places them in a covenant home, he has just moved a mountain in the hearts and families of men. When God gives a childless couple a child of any age using the means of his powerful will, he has just moved a mountain in the hearts and families of men. When mountains move, the earth shakes. When you stand as close as we have to real-life miracles, you will get roughed up. Mountains are big and we are small. A moving mountain can crush us. Splinters fall from the cross. They travel a long distance and they pierce the skin—maybe even the heart. And wrapped in this risk and danger are God’s embrace and promise to work all things (even evil ones) to the good of those who love him.
God is not crushing the dreams of parenthood when he deals the card of infertility. God is asking you to crush the idolatry of pregnancy, to be sure. And, he is saying: Dream My dreams, not yours!