In the past I read books and saw movies about people who converted to Christianity that left me wanting. These stories seemed so shallow and cliché, “My life was garbage, then I met Jesus, and everything is happily ever after.” What bugs me about these types of stories is that the bulk of the story focused on the “garbage,” and very little of the focus was about how Jesus changed their lives because as soon as they committed their lives to Him, the story ends. The implication is that all their problems disappeared and they lived a fairy-tale happily ever after. Those of us who are Christians know that life is still hard, there are still challenges, but there is hope. With Jesus, we can face life’s challenges with perseverance and have confidence that He is with us and will see us through. The Christian life is anything but boring. It is rich and fulfilling, exciting and purposeful. It is an ongoing process of becoming transformed into Jesus’ image, and honestly, it’s not always neat and pretty nor does it feel good, but the outcome…awesome!
I also realize that people who do not share my faith would argue, “I have a good life. My life is rich and fulfilling and definitely not boring. How dare you imply that my life is garbage and has no purpose or meaning simply because I don’t believe as you do.”
This was very much like the argument Rosaria Champagne Butterfield gave. Years ago she was an English professor at Syracuse University specializing in Queer Theory. She was a leader in her field, highly respected, and very involved in community outreach and cared deeply about justice, morality and compassion. She lived a happy, meaningful and fulfilled life.
In the late 1990’s she began research for a book she was writing about the religious right. Deeply hurt and offended by Christian leaders like Pat Robertson who stated at the Republican National Convention in 1992
“Feminism,” he sneered, “encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians.”
It was this statement that put her over the edge to launch her attack on Christians. I don’t blame her. I find this statement deplorable. For my thoughts on feminism, please read my blog post from September 2011 entitled Ferociously Feminine.
She knew that if she were to launch an effective attack she needed to study and learn about who her enemies (i.e. Christians) were, and it was during this process that she became what she previously loathed. For more of her story, read her book Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey Into Christian Faith.
The thing I found so remarkable about Rosaria’s story is that, as different as our journeys are, we are both learning the same lessons and arriving at the same place. She describes her conversion as a train wreck. I can identify with that. Everything my life was has crumbled to ash. I don’t recognize the person I was because of the person I became. My life of following Jesus is an experience of letting go of myself in order to embrace Him.
What is the outcome? Well, my life is still playing out, but I can truly say that while my life is not at all what I imagined, intended or hoped for, my life is so much better. I have experienced a much richer, deeper, and more meaningful life because I gave my life at the altar of the Cross.
Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. –Philippians 3:8-9
I finished Rosaria’s book last night. She traveled a difficult road to arrive at her current destination. A truly transformed life. It is difficult to believe that the person she describes in the first chapter and the last chapter are one in the same and that person is herself. I respect her courage to share her struggles and triumphs in such an open and honest way. I am challenged and encouraged by her message.