Tuesday, May 18, 2010
I've been trying to write a more extended account of my conversion and I'm finding that the process leaves me ... speechless.
The psychology of changing belief systems fascinates me, as do all the aspects of a conversion: love of God, emotional attachment, intellectual assent, factors that involve or leave behind family. But when one tries to analyze one's own conversion, I can't help but think there may be a wall one can't leap in order to see the other side, or a facet of the gem that can't be detected from the inside out.
The "why" is critical in a conversion story, but the "why" is what's so often elusive. Why did I want to search for truth? Why did I feel drawn to God and why did I proceed with dramatic changes that brought enormous upheaval to my life? Why me, and not someone else? And, at various times in my life, why someone else and not me?
The simple answer is grace. It's the answer to everything. But when deconstructing an experience, the simple answer doesn't further the discussion: "Oh, shut up. It's all grace."
Yeah, it is all about grace, but grace isn't a magic charm. God doesn't smack us with the Grace Wand to get us all in line.
Dissecting the ineffable can feel like an experiment in futility. It's not, but it can feel like it. It's worth doing, but there's always a bottom line: certain things have to be accepted before we can move on.
It's a bit like parenting -- there are times when the "Oh, shut up, it's all grace!" attitude seems the only choice. As a mom, I've had my moments and I've used the "Because I'm the parent," line. But there are still things worth dissecting, digging into, and talking about.
And it's sort of like talking potty training with a younger mom (oh, I can't believe that I'm using this as an example ... bear with me ....) The younger mom despairs, and sometimes you say, "Oh, relax! They all get trained sooner or later!" Sometimes, it helps her to hear that. But, other times, she needs more -- she needs to hear about your methods and ideas, your failures, the time you screamed at your child and then worried for weeks that you'd psychologically scarred her forever. She needs some practical tips. She needs a cup of coffee and time with her friend.
So, maybe writing a conversion story is like that -- no conversion story will be able to cover everything, and parts of it will sound like, "Shut up and believe." But, other parts will offer tips and ideas and strategies that worked for someone else, and the combination of those things -- the parental "get on with it' and the compassionate, "this worked for me" stuff will intertwine to become part of someone else's love story with God.
It can all be reduced to love, which, as we all know, can't be reduced. Can I really articulate everything that I love about my husband? The astounding surprises that awaited me in loving a child? The delightful mysteries of finding a kindred spirit in friendship?
I don't know. I'm rambling.
Thanks for listening.
(Painting: The Magdelen Reading, Rogier van der Weyden, from the National Gallery)