So, as mentioned in the previous post, God completely rocked my world for no reason at all and I, in return:
a) became a saint;
b) didn’t become a saint necessarily, but altered my life drastically;
c) was a total jerk and changed absolutely nothing about my life.
If you answered c, you are the winner! And clearly don’t think very highly of me, thanks A LOT.
It wasn’t until about 4 years later that my life truly turned around. My sister, recently graduated from college, and I, recently dropped out of college (go ME!), decided to go on a backpacking trip through Mexico. Which meant one thing to this deeply sensitive soul: FIESTA.
Bailar, burritos, and borracho todos las dias (how many of you just sang “Bailamos” in your heads?). Imagine my dismay when my sister, my supposed partner in crime, suddenly became alarmingly (in my mind) devout about one week before our trip.
I remember on the plane ride down she was gently trying to talk to me about God and how much He loved me, and, at one point I looked at her and said, “So what? I’m lovable.”
Please PLEASE someone invent a time machine so I can go back to this moment and slap myself in the face. PLEASE.
It’s a credit to the saintliness of my sister that she didn’t abandon me at the customs gate after that, but, thank God, she didn’t. She actually went out with me, never having more than one drink or so herself, just to keep an eye out. Waking up, hungover and miserable, and seeing her drinking her coffee, journaling her prayers, filled with a happiness and peace that had become totally alien to my life, was an incredible witness. The contrast between her and I was overwhelming. Embarrassingly so. I was not happy at this point in my life, how could I be? But I had come to accept it as part of my growing up. Joy, innocence, zeal for life, those were things for children. So how was it my sister suddenly seemed so joyful? So innocent even? She was older than I was, after all! It wasn’t long after that I followed in her footsteps, trading in my drunken nights for her holy mornings. It was a shockingly easy thing to do.
Looking back now at how quickly my conversion was completed while traveling alone with my freshly illuminated sister, the Parable of the Sower comes to mind:
“The sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed…(some) seed fell among the thorns; and the thorns grew up with it and choked it out.”
For most of my life, I was the seed among the thorns. Friends, fun times, parties; these were my thorns. Once they were removed, those precious seeds planted by my parents and by God Himself grew quickly and nearly effortlessly. I’ve tried to think back, to pinpoint exactly what it was that changed me, but it wasn’t a what. It was a Who. The Holy Spirit finally had more than a crumb of my attention, He had two or three crumbs. Luckily for me, He doesn’t need any more than that. He changed me from the inside out. A total 180.
To be honest, it was a fairly traumatic experience. Day was suddenly night. Down was up. Church was good. Beer was bad (ok, ok, beer’s not bad but maybe it shouldn’t be our main hobby?) I’d always been a person with a weak moral compass. Rather than due North and South, my compass fluctuated between Fun! and meh. This didn’t necessarily change just because I was suddenly a card-carrying Christian (where is that card?), I was simply made aware of it. Scripture tells us that repentance is a gift, and it is, certainly, but it can be a pokey gift. How can I describe this? I suddenly saw the world through the eyes of Love, and the difference between how He who is Love saw things, particularly people, and the way I saw things, was stark. I did not love people. Let me say that again. I did NOT love people. It’s funny how non-Christians often view Christians as unloving and judgemental. We certainly can be that, and probably have earned that view, sadly, but God, God is NOT unloving and judgemental. God loves to the breaking point. God loves so much more, and on such a deeper level than any man, though some come closer than others. God loves on a level that men find insane.
I remember walking through the streets of some Mexican city, looking at the street vendors, and seeing clearly for the first time what I thought of all these people. I won’t go too deep into the actual words that went through my mind, but they were not loving words. Btw, this wasn’t some racist, I don’t like Mexican people thing. Mine was a very inclusive kind of dislike. All people groups were included. Even the people I thought I surely did like, even love, I was often cruel and petty toward. While I was having this self-realization, or, I should say, the reason I was even having this realization, I was becoming aware of God’s feeling toward these people. Unlike me, He liked them. He more than liked them. He LOVED them. He had flooded the Universe with His love for them. All of them. The two knowings, side by side, His nature next to my own, was more than I could bear. This God I had decided to follow, this Jesus I now proudly confessed, I was NOTHING like Him. And the knowledge of this absolutely and totally crushed me.
George MacDonald, in one of his Unspoken Sermons, talks about how God told the Hebrews not to even touch Mt Sinai while He spoke to Moses or they would be destroyed, and, according to MacDonald what He meant was, everything they thought they were would be destroyed. Everything that Egypt had taught them to value would be destroyed. Everything that they had learned to identify with as their very selves would be destroyed. And this is what happened to me. I valued bawdiness. Christ is pure. I valued cruel humor. Christ is kind. I valued conceit. Christ is humble. I had come to see myself as all of these things, had come to believe that these traits were what gave me value. Gave me personhood. Because who would like me if I didn’t possess all these things? Not my friends. Not the boys at my college. And, if they didn’t like me, why would I like myself?
He did just as I feared, you know. He made it impossible for me to live that life anymore. He made me uncool. He fully WRECKED MY LIFE. He loved me enough to do that.