Several days ago ... and I almost never have the wherewithal or interest to pull this off ... I devoured nearly an entire book in a single day. It was Rosaria Butterfield's The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, and I highly recommend it.
Carl Trueman's words of recommendation hit the spot for me:
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I do not agree with everything she says; but I did learn from everything she wrote. It deserves the widest possible readership.
Indeed, I was moved and challenged and refreshed and compelled by this book like I haven't been in a long time. It is the personal memoir of a woman who was a highly successful lesbian professor of English … and whose life, in her mid-thirties, was utterly altered by what she calls a train wreck conversion.
The lessons are many – one of the most powerful being how she was slowly led to Christ and his cross by the patient friendship of a local pastor and his wife who opened their homes, listened, loved, and accepted who Rosaria was, without condoning their new friend’s lifestyle.
She also makes no bones about the fact that she wasn’t looking for Jesus, didn’t make an easy and quick ‘decision for Jesus,’ and was only won over by the sovereign, electing grace of God that overcame her in spite of herself and her sin. And she seems quite content – even glad – to confess that it happened that way! God gets the credit!
Some of what she says is edgy, maybe even stinging. Perhaps it needn’t be quite so much that way in every case. But sometimes we who are tempted to cocoon in our Christian culture circles need to hear, plain and simple, how outsiders view us (and some of the flaws that this outsider-turned-insider can still see).
One of the amazing things about the book – perhaps especially noticeable because I read it almost all the way through in a single day – was how the beginning of the book and the end of the book really seemed like they were written about (and almost like they were written by) two different people. And, in the most profound sense, they were! I’m no literary scholar, but Butterfield’s later accounts of her life as a pastor’s wife and adoptive homeschool mom read so very differently from her descriptions of her English professor days at the beginning of the book – and not just in content, but in the very feel of the words! But such is the change that Christ brings. We cannot tell our old stories in the same way that we rehearse the new.
In closing, here is one quote that I found particularly challenging (though it has not so much to do with the narrative of Butterfield’s conversion, but rather the convictions that she now holds as a Christian) Speaking of her Reformed Presbyterian denomination's commitment to biblically simple corporate worship, Butterfield writes:
In an RP church, you will get no show, no comedian pastors, no rock bands, no videos, no interpretive dancing. Either Jesus comes to worship with us and the Holy Spirit fuels and fills us and God is honored or we have, simply, painfully, nothing at all.
Read it again, slowly. Then read it a third time, plugging the name of your church into the first sentence, along with whatever ambiance, aesthetics, experience, or tradition you have come to believe necessary for you to 'really worship.' And then ask if you could still leave the second sentence as-is.
Is meeting with the Triune God enough for us? And, when we gather, do we really expect to meet with Him, or just with a set of people and norms that have become comfortable to us? And, if it’s the latter, have we really gotten what Rosaria Butterfield got when God shook her life to its core, and rebuilt it all over again? Perhaps God might grant us a train wreck of our own.