Christianity from the eyes of a new convert

March 9, 2008

At the end of my interview that aired last week, producer Judy Zarick asked me if there was any final thought I’d like to offer to cradle Catholics. I thought it was a great question — if I could just get one message out there to people who have been Christians all their lives, what would it be? Unfortunately I’m not good at thinking on my feet, but I gave the best answer I could come up with off the top of my head. After I hung up the phone I wished that I could have done a better job of articulating my view of Christianity from the perspective of a new convert.

In the past few weeks since the interview was taped, I’ve been thinking: how do I explain it? How could I describe to lifelong Christians the way I see the world now that I know what they’ve known all their lives? I’m not sure if it’s something I could really put into words, but here’s my best effort:

Let me draw on the Narnia analogy again. A while back I wrote a post about how the way I felt when I discovered that the Christian claims were true was the way I would have felt if I had actually discovered my own portal to Narnia after reading The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe as a child: how exhilarating, how fantastic, how mind-bogglingly glorious it would be to discover that what you thought was a fairy tale was actually quite real, and even more wondrous than you’d imagined. Finding Narnia is not even close to a perfect analogy for finding God, but the part of the experience I think it does convey is the sheer sense of awe and wonder I feel at having found an entire other realm of existence that I didn’t know was there before.

So, as a new convert and former atheist, one of the most perplexing things I’ve encountered is lukewarmness among Christians. It’s hard for me to understand. When I’ve talked to Christians who believe in God but who aren’t particularly interested in practicing their faith, I feel the same way I would have felt if I had discovered Narnia and the follow scenario played out:

ME: [Breathlessly running up to friend] Hey! You have GOT to hear this: I discovered Narnia! I found it — it’s ALL REAL. And all I have to do is go into this wardrobe and walk to the back, and I start to feel the cool air of the other world, and–

FRIEND: You mean Narnia, the mystical land where a battle for good and evil rages and you can fight for the forces of good and transform your entire existence while encountering beings that are not of this world? Yeah, we have one of those portals too. Over in the guest room.

ME: Whoa! Why don’t you talk about this more often?! Why aren’t you jumping for joy about it all the time?

FRIEND: Yeah, you know, I’d love to, but I’ve got a lot going on right now. I’m super busy at work, and have a million things I need to get done around the house. I’d love to explore it more often, but right now I’m just so busy.

To me, at this point in the conversion process, that example illustrates how it sounds to my ears when I talk to Christians who say that they do believe God but put him on the backburner of their lives.

When I first read the New Testament a couple years ago, one of the lines that stood out most to me was from the third chapter of Revelation, where Christ says: “I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” Of all the things I read, that really resonated with me. At the time I wasn’t sure if I believed in God, but I thought that if these things were to be true — the Creator of the universe becoming man, performing miracles, telling us what he wants us to do, being tortured to death on our behalf, and then conquering death once and for all by rising from the dead — how could anyone ever be lukewarm about that? How could it even be possible that someone could acknowledge these things as true but then find worldly pursuits more exciting or interesting? How could a believer not live every day of his or her life overwhelmed with gratitude for what God has done for them, or even just rejoice in the simple fact that they’re aware of the existence of God and the spiritual realm in the first place?

Now that the year anniversary of my entrance into the Church approaches, as these truths become more a natural part of life than a staggering new revelation, I see how it can happen. I see that we humans have an amazing power to take anything for granted, that there is nothing so good or so glorious or so beautiful that most of us couldn’t become ho-hum about it if we lived with it long enough. We can become bored and ungrateful about anything — even God. So I write this as much to myself as to anyone else, and say this not as some expert on Christianity but as someone who was once very lost and has only recently been found: let us never forget the magnitude of what we’re dealing with here. As we enter the final stretch of preparing ourselves to celebrate Easter, let us always tremble a little bit when we think about just what happened at the Resurrection, and what it would mean for us if it hadn’t. And though we may face bad days or spiritual dry spells, let us never view lukewarmness as an acceptable way of life.

As the year anniversary of my conversion comes and goes, and the newness of being a Christian wears off, I hope that I will always work to keep that sense of wonder alive, and to approach my beliefs with the awe of a child who just found Narnia.


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