I was listening to Relevant Radio this morning, and was reminded of something that happened a while back that I’ve been meaning to write about since it was one of those little moments that has turned out to be a salient memory in my conversion experience:
Quite a few months ago my husband had been emailing with one of the hosts of a Relevant Radio show about getting a copy of a DVD he heard mentioned on the air. When the host saw our address he remarked that he was actually going to be visiting our town soon and invited us to come down to the local affiliate to watch him broadcast the show.
We took him up on his kind offer, and planned to arrive to see the last few minutes of his show one Friday afternoon. As I drove down to the office, I of course was listening to his show in the car. I listened to a discussion between the show’s guest, a well-known priest, and a lady named Rebecca who called in to share her heart-wrenching story. She’d suffered multiple miscarriages and was now well into the second trimester of what she thought was a healthy pregnancy, but she’d just received a concerning diagnosis and was not sure if this baby was going to make it. She was devastated at the thought of losing another child.
The priest gave her some good advice, but it was nearing the end of the hour and they were out of time. The show’s host politely told her that that was all the time they had, said that she’d be in his prayers, and then moved on to remind listeners to support the show’s sponsors and check out next week’s guests.
Shortly after that I arrived at the station and headed inside. We had a nice talk with the host and I was impressed by his extensive credentials and inspired by his story of how he left a promising, glamorous career in the mainstream media to follow God’s call to do work more in line with his faith. As we were wrapping up I grabbed my purse off of the desk, and lying next to it I saw a stack of some broadcast documents and personal papers that belonged to him. On top of the papers was a bright yellow sticky note with the words “PRAY FOR REBECCA” written in large letters.
It seems like such a little thing, but that note ended up being the marker of a sort of spiritual turning point for me. I had just taken for granted that when the host had closed the segment by saying “you’ll be in my prayers, ” that that was just a polite throwaway comment to get to the commercial break. Yet when I saw the paper and realized that he really did care enough to bring this stranger’s intentions before God in his prayers, and had even made a little extra effort to write himself a note to remember to do so, I had this odd moment of being surprised that I wasn’t surprised. It brought to the forefront of my mind something I’d noticed for a long time but hadn’t really articulated: there are so many really good, true Christians out there!
It’s sad to say, but at one point that was actually news to me. Growing up as an atheist, having never experienced God (or, really, having never allowed myself to experience God), I didn’t understand the concept of faith. I was baffled by the idea of dedicating your life to some mysterious entity that you couldn’t see. I was also a very cynical person, for reasons I discussed here, so it only took a few bad experiences with Christians to wholly convince myself that religion, Christianity in particular, was just a tool that people used to feel superior and to control others.
For some reason, seeing that yellow sticky note that day brought home to me just how much beauty I’d missed by hiding behind my wall of cynicism all my life — in the world in general, but in particular with Christians. It clarified the fact that in the year or so since I’d become involved in Christian circles, I’d encountered far more people who took their faith seriously than people who didn’t. Which is not to say that now that I’m a Christian I find myself surrounded by perfect living saints, but that the vast majority of people I’ve come to know who are self-described Christians really do take their faith seriously, really do attempt to live according to God’s rules and not their own, and really are willing to undertake selfless acts and make sacrifices to help others — even in private, when nobody but God even knows about it.
I also realized at that moment how much I owe to all these Christians who live their faith day in and day out. As a quick perusal through my archives and my old site will show, the path to conversion was a rocky one for me. Especially at the beginning when I was beyond clueless, consumed with pride and skepticism, and unknowingly doing practically everything I could to block out God’s voice, there were many times when it was tempting to slide back into the comfort of my lifelong atheistic belief system.
Looking back, I see now that a big part of what kept me on the right path was my fellow Christians — not just through overt offers of help or encouragement but, even more importantly, through the witness of the quiet actions of their daily lives. It seems that every time I got close to giving up hope that I’d ever be able to have faith, I’d have one of those yellow sticky note moments, when I’d see some Christian humbly, quietly going about living his or her faith. The warmth and peace that their actions brought allowed me to have a much-needed glimpse of Christ here on earth, to fan the flames of my own faith, just when it was down to the embers. In most cases, as with the radio host, the person never even knew that anyone else was aware of his actions.
I’ve been dabbling at this post for days now because I wasn’t sure what my take was. I didn’t really know where I was going with it. But after writing this all out I finally realize what it is I’ve been trying to say: thank you. I feel a great debt of gratitude to my fellow Christians whose actions kept me on the right path even when I was consumed with doubt and despair. Those of you who were brought up with faith and have always lived in Christian environments may never know just how much even your smallest actions can be a breath of fresh air to someone who doesn’t know God.
In some cases it was reading the words of bloggers or commentors, in others it was interactions with friends and acquaintances in real life, and in yet others it was simply observing the actions of people I barely knew. But thank you, thank you, thank you to all the Christians whose words and deeds chipped away at my hardened cynicism, and helped show me the path to God.
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