Thursday, August 28, 2008

Finding Faith: One Woman's Story

One afternoon when I was a sophomore in college I was sitting in my dormitory room minding my own business when someone knocked on the door. I opened it and found two young women clutching Bibles to their breasts. My heart sank. With my parent's help, I had avoided organized religion most of my life, and these two - with their gleaming eyes, their earnest faces, their modest plaid skirts and sensible shoes - these were just the sort of people I had hoped to continue avoiding as long as I could. The Holy Spirit had sent them, they said. Could they come in? While I was thinking of a suitable reply, they did come in, and I was a goner. They sat down on my bed, opened their Bibles, and began to ask me questions.

"Are you saved?" one of them asked.

"Well," I said, "that depends on what you - "

"No," the other one said, writing something down on a pad of paper.

"Do you want to be saved?" the first one asked, and both of them gleamed at me while I thought how awful it would sound to say, "No."

"Sure," I said, and they leapt into action, pulling me down to sit beside them on the bed, one of them reading selected passages of scripture while the other one drew an illustration of my predicament on her pad.

"Here you are," she said, drawing a stick figure on one side of a yawning chasm. "And here is God," she said, drawing another figure on the other side. "In between is sin and death." she said, filling the chasm with dark clouds from her pen.

"Now the question is, how are you and God going to get together?" she asked me.

"I don't have a clue," I said, and they both looked delighted. Then the one with the pen bent over her drawing and connected the two sides of the chasm with a bridge in the shape of a cross.

"That's how," she said. "Jesus laid down his life for you to cross over. Do you want to cross over?"

"Sure," I said, and the look in their eyes was like one of those old cash registers where you crank the handle and the little "Sale" sign pops up. They told me to kneel by the bed, where they knelt on either side of me and instructed me to repeat after them: "I accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior and I ask him to come into my life. Amen." Then they got up, hugged me, gave me a schedule of campus Bible study, and left.

The whole thing took less than twenty minutes. It was quick, simple, direct. They did not have any questions about who Jesus was. You are here, God is there, Jesus is the bridge. Say these words and you are a Christian. Abracadabra. Amen. It is still hard for me to describe my frame of mind at the time. I was half-serious, half-amused. I cooperated as much out of curiosity as anything, and because I thought that going along with them would get them out of my room faster than arguing with them.

I admired their courage, in a way, but nothing they said really affected me. Most of it was just embarrassing, the kind of simplistic faith I liked least, but something happened to me that afternoon. After they left I went out for a walk and the world looked funny to me, different. People's faces looked different to me; I had never noticed so many details before. I stared at them like portraits in a gallery, and my own face burned for over an hour. Meanwhile, it was hard to walk. The ground was spongy under my feet. I felt weightless, and it was all I could do to keep myself from floating up and getting stuck in the trees.

Was it a conversion? All I know is that something happened, something that got my attention and has kept it through all the years that have passed since then. I may have been fooling around, but Jesus was not. My heart may not have been in it, but Jesus' was. I asked him to come in and he came in, although I no more have words for his presence in my life than I do for what keeps the stars in the sky or what make the daffodils rise up from their graves each spring. It just is. He just is. (Excerpt from Barbara Brown Taylor, "The Preaching Life")

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