christian · Christianity · family

Why, Part 2

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.

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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.”

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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.

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christian · Christianity · orthodox · orthodoxy · Uncategorized

Why, Part One

Since I am nothing if not original, I’ve decided to follow in the footsteps of my BFF’s Jenna and Blythe (why, no, the fact that we’ve never met and they don’t know I exist hasn’t hindered our friendship at all, why do you ask?) and write out my Conversion Story.  Excited? Maybe? A little?  Stick with me.

I planned to have this be about why I converted to Orthodoxy from Evangelical Protestantism, but changed my mind and decided to go waaaaay back and explain why I am a Christian in the first place.  Because the two really go together.  It’s been one path, not two, after all.

I was raised in a Christian home (my parents actually met in Bible college) but, at age 9, my parents split up and my siblings and I moved with my mom to SoCal while my dad remained up north.  My mom still loved the Lord and believed in Jesus as the Son of God, but she was going through a searching period and certain things fell by the wayside. (I hope you’re cool with me writing this, Mom!  Love you!)

~Side Note: My mom is very much a Christian these days and actually converted to Orthodoxy about 1 year after our family did.~

 

Fast forward to 15 years old.  My dad, who was still very much a devout Christian, took me and my sister to Italy on a summer vacation.  As I mentioned, my faith at this time was not at all what one would call foundational.  I still prayed, and had even had a few experiences with the Lord, but my worldview was far from Christian.  I was very much a southern California teen, who valued bleached blond hair, my best friend’s rad new car, and losing just 5 more pounds over such laughable things as sanctity and chastity.

One of the stops on this trip was St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.  I’m pretty sure I knew who St. Peter was but this stop was nothing more than a tourist attraction in my mind, like a museum or a cannoli cart.  I have some pictures that I took right before we went into the Basilica.  They’re a bunch of selfies (I was taking selfies before selfies were cool) where I’m pursing my lip-gloss soaked lips and trying to look coy, or seductive, or I don’t know what.  It’s hard to look anything more than sad when you’re a short, underdeveloped, semi-anorexic kid posing for the camera, but I was trying with all my might.

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(I taught Kylie everything she knows.)

So, eventually, my dad pried the camera out of my red-nailed fingers and we went into the church. My dad mentioned that St. Peter’s bones are supposed to be buried under the church and that tradition holds he asked to be crucified upside down so as not to steal any glory from Christ by emulating His death.  I’m listening, maybe half listening, and I say something along the lines of, “Well, I don’t think he’d like all this then,” referring to the utter magnificence of the Basilica named in his honor.

And then it happened.

Or, maybe it’s more accurate to say, He happened.

God showed up.  I really don’t know how else to describe it and I certainly don’t want to be one of those people who describes a holy event by just repeating, “It was indescribable!  Indescribable!” But it really was. They say that for a reason.  The best way I can present it is by saying that the One who knew all, who knew me, and loved me, on a deeper level than any person had ever come close to knowing or loving me, wrapped me in an invisible embrace and said, “I know you. I forgive you. I love you.

Real quick, before I go on, I want to be clear that I HAVE NO IDEA why God gave me this gift.  I don’t think it was some confirmation that, yes, St. Peter is, in fact, stewing in Heaven over how much he hates his Basilica and someone give that girl a cookie for finally saying so.  I’m Orthodox, for goodness’ sake.  No one loves fancy churches more than Orthodox people. I think it was just…grace.  The whole thing still just stuns me.  I probably think about it every week, if not every day.  The thing that blows me away most of all is I that did absolutely nothing to deserve it.  I wasn’t praying.  I wasn’t reaching out to God in any way and probably hadn’t in quite a while.  I wasn’t living a holy life or even a halfway decent life. Frankly, I wasn’t a decent person.  I was a mean, popular, superficial teenage girl who alternated between drowning in self-hatred and self-adoration.  I was the worst.

Yet, God loved me.  He saw me.  He knew me.

I’d love (so so much) to be able to say that my life changed after this blessed event.  That I went home, threw away all my hidden packs of cigarettes, put away my oil-slick-thick eyeliner and started living my life for Jesus.  Unfortunately, that’s not what happened.  My life changed very little, on the outside.  But a seed, a very powerful seed, had been planted and, when it finally was given a little air to breathe, it would begin to grow.