Friday, August 20, 2010

Finding faith

What's your story? How we came to putting our faith in Christ is the greatest story any of us can tell. If it's been a while since you've told the story of the difference Christ has made in your life, watch out, I might ask you to type up your story and post it here. That's what I did to my new friend, Margaret Evans. We only met a few weeks ago after she posted a comment at my Mere C.S. Lewis blog. I really liked what she had to say about her experience with C.S. Lewis and so I asked her if she would share her story of finding faith. And here it is, in her words...

Margaret-and-daughter I grew up in the south, where going to church was just what you did. Much like voting or joining the Rotary Club, it was part of being a “good citizen.” My parents raised us in the Methodist Church.  We were active members, and it was pleasant and comfortable. But here’s the thing: it didn’t take. I considered myself a Christian – wasn’t everybody? – but I never thought much about what that meant, and it wasn’t particularly important to me. So, like many “cultural Christians,” I went off to college and started reading widely and thinking deeply – and meeting smart atheists, some of whom were my professors – and what little faith I had was shaken. I was an English major at a small, prestigious college with strong ties to the Episcopal Church, but it was there that I began losing my religion. In graduate school, the bulldozing of my faith continued. Along with lit courses, I had comparative religion, philosophy, and critical theory (deconstructionism!), all of which combined to pull the rug out from under this small-town southern girl. Not that I minded. I fancied myself quite sophisticated in my new found “enlightenment,” which consisted, mainly, of a conviction that there’s no such thing as “truth,” that life is a random series of meaningless experiences, and that belief in God is for the ignorant. Looking back, I see that my atheism (which I preferred to call “secular humanism”) was as much a “cultural” thing as my Christianity had been. I was running with a different crowd now – academics, artists, journalists – and scoffing was just what you did. My default attitude in those days was amused scorn.

Fast-forward almost two decades. I’m now married with a five-year-old daughter. Western culture is 20 years more decadent. I begin to experience a nagging concern that won’t let go: I need to take Amelia to church.flemington-presbyterian-church-georgia Christianity is her heritage, and she knows nothing about it. She deserves to be exposed to it, if only for the sake of education. She won’t learn about it in school. It’s my responsibility.

These were my thoughts, three and a half years ago, as I took my child to a pretty little Presbyterian church one Sunday morning in December to hear the Christmas portion of Handel’s Messiah. We sat together on the front row, and I listened. And I remembered. (My parents had sung in the choir when I was a girl, and the Messiah was much loved in our home.) I sat there that morning in December, and something inexplicable – and completely unexpected – happened. Something cold and hard and cynical (my heart?) cracked open, and I wept like a baby on the front row of that church. “For, unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given… and the government shall be upon His shoulders…” I had heard those words a thousand times, and suddenly – for the first time – I knew they were true. And that everything – everything – was about to change.

I had no idea.

That morning in church was just the beginning. I often think that G.F. Handel opened my heart, but it took C.S. Lewis (and plenty of other writers) to bring my mind along for the ride. I’m a natural skeptic, so I needed lots of intellectual back-up after that initial moment of revelation.

Lewis gave me a whole new way of seeing; he addressed my natural skepticism and made it okay to believe in miracles...mere-christianity He spoke to my heart AND my mind and allowed me – no, freed me – to really "go there." Know what I mean? In my heart, it was where I already wanted to go, but I needed an intellectual shove. I guess you could say Lewis was my "closer." I remember reading 'Mere Christianity' on the treadmill at my gym, and just weeping openly with joy (and relief!) and wondering why nobody had ever said it to me like THIS before! It really changed my life. Next, I read 'The Screwtape Letters,' which I still think is possibly THE wisest, most insightful book I've ever read. But I'm no Lewis expert. I've read the 'Abolition of Man' and lots of essays (and, of course, the Narnia books) but haven't read the Space Trilogy or even The Great Divorce. (They're all on my list...)

My point is that “conversion” isn’t a one-time thing... an “event” with a beginning and an end.  It may have a catalyst (like Handel’s ‘Messiah’), but it’s an ongoing process of growth and discovery. Ever since that day in church, I’ve been reading and studying, praying and worshipping… trying to figure out what it means to follow Christ. My husband remains an agnostic, as do many of our friends. I’ve even lost a few friends over my conversion, and have suffered a fair amount of marital strife because my husband simply doesn’t understand. As a writer, I’ve struggled with the compulsion to make my faith the focus of my work, but I’m a columnist for an alternative newsweekly, so it’s not a great fit. In short, it’s been an extremely difficult, challenging time… and absolutely amazing. In spite of everything, I have no regrets. I look forward to each new bend in the road with faith, hope and love.

Thanks Margaret for posting your story. Margaret mentioned that she was a columnist (and she's actually the editor too) and I think you would enjoy reading more of her work, so please visit her newsweekly's website. You can also read Margaret's story at very interesting blog called On The Fence with Jesus which I highly recommend. And, of course, if you'd like to read C.S. Lewis which Margaret would highly recommend, as do I, then please visit the Mere C.S. Lewis site and check back everyday for a new reading.


  1. Amazing story Margaret our God does great things in our lives on His timetable. I came back to church in my early 40's and I can tell you God never gave up on me.
    Ken keep up the good work. See you Sunday? Gary

  2. Thanks, Gary. It's so great to come across someone who's been through the same thing I have. It's been a wild ride, for sure.... As for your question: I'll see you Sunday only if you're a Presbyterian living in coastal South Carolina :-)

  3. Oh, I see now you were talking to Ken about Sunday. Duh. Never mind!

  4. You are right Ken and I go to the same church. I am from Boston and am going down their in Sept with my wife to visit my dad and brother. I was checking out Maggie's Pub but I think I will still be to far away to drop in for a visit, I don't drink but the food looked delicious.
    Never been to a Presbyterian church but I listen to a preacher on the radio named Steve Brown, just wondered if you ever heard of him? I will keep checking out your blog as well as Ken's.



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