Wednesday, July 12, 2006

An interesting conversion story

I'm reading Frederica Mathewes-Green's 1997 book, Facing East: A Pilgrim's Journey into the Mysteries of Orthodoxy. This is an interesting book for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is its humor. Mathewes-Green tells the following story about her initial conversion to the Christian faith after spending her college years as an aggressive agnostic who made fun of friends who were Christians. She said her new husband, Gary, was the first to convert to a life of faith:

Gary's shell began to crack when a professor required his philosophy class to read a Gospel. As he read the words of Jesus, he became convinced that here was one who "speaks with authority." Since Jesus said there was a God, Gary began to doubt his doubting.

This reasoning left me unconvinced. By the time of our wedding I was going through my Hindu phase, but I didn't object to visiting cathedrals on our honeymoon hitchhiking through Europe. One day in Dublin I looked at a statue of Jesus and was struck to my knees, hearing an interiour voice say, "I am your life." I knew it was the One I had rejected and ridiculed, come at last to seize me forever. It was a shattering experience from which I emerged blinking like a newborn, and decades later I still feel overwhelming awe and gratitude for that rescue, that vast and undeserved gift. It's like the story of the farmer who had to whap his donkey with a two-by-four to get its attention. I imagine that when God needs a two-by-four this big, he much be dealing with a pretty big donkey" (xii).

I love the one-sentence quote, "I am your life." It seems to me that a lot of theology is packed into those four words. The rest of the book tells the story of a year in the life of her small, mission church as she comes to love the ancient traditions of Orthodoxy.

Best wishes,
Mason Smith

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