I thought I'd share a snippet from Anne Lamott's book, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith. I particularly appreciated listening to her recount her conversion experience...
That April of 1984, in the midst of this experience, Pammy took a fourth urine sample to the lab, and it finally came back positive. I had published three books by then, but none of them had sold particularly well, and I did not have the money or wherewithal to have a baby. The father was someone I had just met, who was married, and no one I wanted a real life or baby with. So Pammy one evening took me for an abortion, and I was sadder than I'd been since my father died, and when she brought me home that night, I went upstairs to my loft with a pint of Bushmills and some codeine a nurse had given me for pain. I drank until early dawn.Here's what I like about this book - Anne's story is raw and honest; it demonstrates that Jesus is big enough to save someone most churches wouldn't want to touch. Her life illustrates where all of us are headed without Christ: we think we're good, but really we are junkies barrelling down the tracks of life, trying to convince ourselves we're still in control. Sooner or later there's going to be a train wreck.
Then the next night I did it again, and the next night, although by then the pills were gone.
I didn't go to the flea market the week of my abortion. I stayed home, and smoked dope and got drunk, and tried to write a little, and went for slow walks along the salt marsh with Pammy. On the seventh night, though, very drunk and just about to take a sleeping pill, I discovered that I was bleeding heavily. It did not stop over the next hour. I was going through a pad every fifteen minutes, and I thought I should call a doctor or Pammy, but I was so disgusted that I had gotten drunk one week after an abortion that I just couldn't wake someone up and ask for help. I kept changing Kotex, and I got very sober very quickly. Several hours later, the blood stopped flowing, and I got in bed, shaky and sad too wild to have another drink or take a sleeping pill. I had a cigarette and turned off the light. After a while, as i lay there, I became aware of someone with me, hunkered down in the corner, and I just assumed it was my father, whose presence I had felt over the years when I was frightened and alone. The feeling was so strong that I actually turned on the light for a moment to make sure no one was there - of course, there wasn't. But after a while, in the dark again, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was Jesus. I felt him as surely as I feel my dog lying nearby as I write this.
And I was appalled. I thought about my life and my brilliant hilarious progressive friends, I thought about what everyone would think of me if I became a Christian, and it seemed an utterly impossible thing that simply could not be allowed to happen. I turned to the wall and said out loud, "I would rather die."
I felt him just sitting there on his haunches in the corner of my sleeping loft, watching me with patience and love, and I squinched my eyes shut, but that didn't help because that's not what I was seeing him with.
Finally I fell asleep, and in the morning, he was gone.
This experience spooked me badly, but I thought it was just an apparition, born of fear and self-loathing and booze and loss of blood. But then everywhere I went, I had the feeling that a little cat was following me, wanting me to reach down and pick it up, wanting me to open the door and let it in. But I knew what would happen: you let a cat in one time, give it a little milk, and then it stays forever. So I tried to keep one step ahead of it, slamming my houseboat door when I entered or left.
And one week later, when I went back to church, I was so hungover that I couldn't stand up for the songs, and this time I stayed for the sermon, which I thought was just ridiculous, like someone trying to convince me of the existence of extraterrestrials, but the last song was so deep and raw and pure that I could not escape. It was as if people were singing in between the notes, weeping and joyful at the same time, and I felt like their voices or something was rocking me in its bosom, holding me like a scared kid, and I opened up to that feeling - and it washed over me.
I began to cry and left before the benediction, and I raced home and felt the little cat running along at my heels, and I walked down the dock passed dozens of potted flowers, under a sky as blue as one God's own dreams, and I opened the door to my houseboat, and I stood there a minute, and then I hung my head and said, "Fuck it: I quit." I took a long deep breath and said out loud, "All right. You can come in."
So this was my beautiful moment of conversion.
But if God can save Saul of Tarsus - if God can save Anne of Lamott - he can save you and me. You CAN get there from here.
What's interesting is how God rescues all of us in different ways - for some of us, we grow up believing and can never remember a time where we didn't know God was real; for many of us, however, there comes some kind of decisive turning point where our entire worldview suddenly shifts. For Anne, it was the culmination of years of self-destructive behavior - she finally realized her need, and then saw that God was pursuing her, not in hatred, but in love.
So what about you? I'd like to open up the mic and give readers a chance to talk about their conversion experiences. I'm not looking for sweeping histories here, but rather the pivot points - what key events or insights made the difference in your thinking? What caused the switches to flip? What enabled you to actually start believing in God? How did your heart of stone suddenly change?
That's what I'm interested in hearing. Any takers?