Project Conversion: 18 Months Later…
God has an interesting habit of invading our lives.
The End of the Road.
Once Project Conversion ended on December 31st, 2011, it was time to share my story with others. I spent 2012 reviewing the previous year and developing the Art of Immersion as well as a narrative form of my journey. I also spoke with many audiences and shared my transformation and the lessons I gleaned.
The journey of my life was complete. I was reformed. I returned to writing fiction (my first love). Life was good.
I was never adept at detecting admirers. I am aloof by nature, often lost in my own pondering. It is a wonder I have not vanished into drains and walked into walls. Yet something happened about two months ago. Something I simply could not ignore.
The experience of Project Conversion left me completely open to all possibility. It was here in this empty canvas, in the minutia of minding my own business, that I felt myself being…noticed.
He was far away on my spiritual radar, blurred by the traffic of my thoughts and musings, and yet close enough that I could almost recognize his presence. He was still among the crowd, quiet among the cacophony, and gazing straight into my eyes.
He goes by many names: Emanuel, Yeshua, the messiah, the Christ. Jesus of Nazareth. The Son of God.
Staring at me and into me.
And I cannot, look, away.
The Game of Love.
I was not looking for God. I was happy, fulfilled, gracious for my freedom from hatred and anger. There was no tragic event, no addiction to overcome, no void to fill from the loss of a loved one. I was not your typical candidate for a conversion experience. I did not need or want God.
But he flirted with me anyway.
So I acknowledged his presence passively, but it was a seductive trap. They say that to boil a frog, one must increase the water temperature gradually until it is too late. And so it was, that he drew me in gradually, appealing to my intellectual thirst, my latent mysticism, and soon I was presented with a devastating choice: Either Jesus is precisely who he claimed, or he and the church he founded are the greatest, most elaborate (and successful) frauds in history.
I became an immersionist again. My life was consumed with this question. For me faith and belief were not enough. This was a question that could be answered, that MUST be answered, and if the answer was no, then I could turn away, but if it was yes…
For weeks I drenched myself in scholarship, arguments and counter-arguments, essays, histories, and soon, as exhaustion set in, as my eyes bled from reading and my mind ached from the mental battles, I found myself close–intimately close, to my admirer.
“Well?” he said. “I invited you to come and see. Tell me, who do you say that I am?”
My next words were not a choice, but a surrender to a reality I could no longer ignore. I neither willed nor desired what would result from my next breath, because I knew that from that moment forward, everything would change. His presence was as real and radiant as a sunrise, as intimately close as a lover, as soothing as a summer rain, and as encompassing and overwhelming as a hurricane. In my spent form, all I could do was look back at him and say,
“You are who you say you are. And I am fully yours.”
At this moment, I regard myself as a disciple of Jesus. This change, this…conversion, is a slow process, one which will culminate on Easter of 2014 as I am received into the Roman Catholic Church. I will be wed to Christ, a branch grafted to the true vine.
These next months are a stage of growth and relationship. Like Mary during the Annunciation, God courted her, if you will, asking if he might enter into her life. It was a gentle intrusion of her world, and just as Christ slowly grew inside her, he will do the same within me.
I know many of you might feel disappointed in this announcement. Understand this simple truth: this was not a choice, but an assent to a reality I could not ignore. This is not a choosing of one faith over another, as if I had favored one over all others. Just as Muhammad was overwhelmed by Jabril, just as Moses was confounded by the burning bush, just as the Buddha was compelled to rise from the Bodhi tree, I must follow Christ.
Know that I believe that the divine manifested itself in every faith I explored in order to melt the permafrost over my life and soften my heart.
You were part of that process, and so I would like you to be part of its culmination.
Saint Irenaeus of Lyons said that the glory of God is man fully alive. Despite this inconceivable turn of events, despite my minute-by-minute shock of this reality and its implications, I, for the first time in 15 years, feel fully alive.
Because this is the culmination of my journey, I will include another chapter at the end of the Project Conversion book next year as a second edition.
Thank you for joining me.