catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 7, Num 18 :: 2008.10.10 — 2008.10.24


Conversion as process

God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?
Numbers 23:19

The immutable veracity of the truth-how did I change my mind to believe this? It began with fenestrations (my husband’s word) through which I caught glimpses until my vision became an uninterrupted gaze.

The first opening I experienced was through life in my extended family.  My father’s younger brother had died.  As was the custom in my grandmother’s Quaker faith, he was cremated.  The family’s tradition was to pick a day apart from winter for burial.  We all met in Glenn Lock, Pennsylvania, on a beautiful day in June for Anglican Christian burial.  At age 13, I heard Psalm 121:1-2: “I lift up my eyes to the hills-where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” As I saw my grandfather look up at the hills around the churchyard cemetery, I began to think at that moment that God was real and had a place of significance in my life.

Before this experience I had not seen God as a place or real refuge.  Church attendance was just something the family did as we did other things, sometimes entering into tasks even without purpose, “as a matter of formality” (my grandfather’s words).  Discussions about faith weren’t often as my grandfather, like his mother before him, believed that was private.

Touchpoint two involved the power of scripture to relate to life and in particular sexuality.  In the “relevant” 1960’s Episcopal Church few sermons were preached out of the scriptures itself.  In our affluent parish the sermons were mostly social welfare policy challenges to exhort us to be more involved in Civil Rights and in the lives and needs of the poor.  These sermons did little to explain life abiding in God.  We were the source of our destiny and had an obligation to humankind to behave in a certain way.

As a young college student I heard a sermon on Genesis 15, God’s covenant with Abraham.  Although the speaker hadn’t made this point, I received the impression that this holy covenant was applicable to human relationships and was the basis for marriage.  I remember later explaining to a young Jewish man that he couldn’t make a covenant with the girl across the room and then with me.  This line of thinking kept me out of situations that brought heartache to many friends experimenting in the sexual revolution.

A third touchpoint happened when I was actively searching for a way to relate to western spirituality.  I had rejected the pathway of a good college friend who, after multiple partners, had married her yoga instructor.  To her bewilderment, her husband’s colleagues were teaching that to be truly pure, one should forgo sexual expressions.

Post-college I was attending a breakfast group at my childhood church, but again it was personality-centered.  Depression was invading my life.  The resources that I had were being used up.  My strength wasn’t adequate to minister to the needy psychiatric patients I was daily called upon to influence towards health, as I functioned as an Activities Therapist.

One of my colleagues had a mother who was battling breast cancer.  Her mother had found a living, in-dwelling faith through a Charismatic Lutheran Church.  Her mother’s experience with the truth of Jesus being an experiential, evidential source of strength also convinced my colleague Karen of this reality.  My response was one of openness.  I told them I had worked on my physical and intellectual beings.  It was now time to address my spirituality.

Although I have since changed my mind about some of the emphasis of the charismatic movement, I am very thankful that the truth of relating to a creator God via his atoning sacrifice, Jesus, was made real.  I am also thankful that I found this reality acceptable and a sound basis not only for faith, but for my life.

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