At last...a book I'd read reviews of on various other blogs and which had been recommended to me numerous times...was finally in my hands and being read.
The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert is Rosaria Champagne Butterfield's testimony of how she went from an esteemed professor in 'Queer Theory' at a university and in a long-term lesbian relationship, to becoming a follower of Jesus. In the world's eyes, the church's eyes, and even her own eyes, Rosaria seemed like the very last person who would ever become a Christian. But God had different plans for her and when she encountered the Almighty, she describes her life as a 'train wreck at the hand of the supernatural'. Her faith in Christ changed everything - she was writing a book she could no longer write (on the hatred of the Religious Right in America towards homosexuals), she left her position at the university, ended her relationship with her lesbian partner. She eventually married Kent Butterfield, and is now a pastor's wife and mother to four foster children, three of whom still live at home.
Here are some things I learnt from reading Rosaria's story:
1. Often it takes a long time for someone to come to faith in Christ
I guess I kind of already knew this (coming from a non-Christian family who appear to show no interest in Jesus certainly helps you develop patience and perseverance in prayer and faithful witness), but a lot of Christians seem to assume that they can do an evangelistic course with a non-Christian and that at the end of six weeks (or whenever) they'll be ready to accept Christ. The couple who played a big part in Rosaria coming to faith were an elderly pastor and his wife she was interviewing for her book. It took a few years of them patiently opening their home, sharing meals and answering her many questions. If you have a friend who you think may never come to Christ, don't give up. God is mighty to save.
2. Everyone is really an 'unlikely convert'
Rosaria may label herself an 'unlikely convert' but, in reality, we all are - gay or straight, leftist or rightist, hardened criminal or upstanding citizen, Christian or secular or some other religious upbringing - all of us have rejected God, no-one seeks Him, we have all turned away. I had people say to me after I became a Christian, "Oh I knew you'd become a Christian because you're so nice." No, my conversion was a miracle of God, as is everyone's.
3. Not every non-Christian is 'seeking'
I hear a lot of testimonies where the person shares how they felt lost and that they felt something was lacking in their life. But not everyone is like this. Rosaria openly admits she was very happy with her life and had no need for God. He was the one who found her when she wasn't looking.
4. Don't wait for your friend to change before you invite them to church
Pastor Ken, who Rosaria was meeting with, invited her to visit his church and, after some reservation, she eventually came. He didn't wait for her to stop being a lesbian before he invited her. He invited her to come and hear God's Word. God is the one who can change people, not us imposing a 'moral standard on the unconverted'.
5. Do we really believe God can change people, and do we really see ourselves as sinners?
I get really disgusted when I hear Christians using derogatory terms towards gay people and refusing to associate with them. Are we being like Jesus when we behave this way? Jesus welcomed sinners and ate with them. Too often, Christians place homosexuals in the 'too hard basket', but no-one is too hard for God or beyond His love and grace. Rosaria shares the horrified reaction from a lady from her church when she confessed her past to her: Someone I valued as a friend, a founding church member with influence, asked me what I would do if a homosexual entered our worship service. I quickly shared with her my testimony, apologising that I hadn't done so earlier. I gave her a chapter of the book that you are holding in your hand and I asked her to read it and to let me know what she thought of all of this. A week later, she came to talk. She took a deep breath. All the colour drained from her face. She looked like she had just witnessed a crime scene. Manifesting disgust and horror, she told me that she wished that I hadn't shared this with her. She quickly added, "Oh, I'm fine with this information, but X (another weighty founding church member) could never handle it. Do you have to tell people about this?" This. Rosaria's unmentionable past. Rahab the Harlot. Mary Magdalene. We love these women between the pages of our Bible, but we don't want to sit at the Lord's Table with them - people like me - drinking from a common cup. That's the real ringer: the common cup - that is, our common origin in depravity. We are only righteous in Christ and in Him alone. But that's a hard pill to swallow, especially if you give yourself kudos for good choices (page 138).
I loved her honesty and while I don't agree with everything she says (she comes from a denomination which believe Christians should only sing the Psalms, not other Christian songs), this book should be high on the must read list for every Christian.
In 2006, I was:
Living in Perth
Sharing a unit with my friend Emma.
Working full-time as a librarian at a university.
Spending my days teaching information literacy classes to students and staff, answering queries at the reference desk, updating the library website, creating learning guides, choosing new resources for the library to order, going to meetings, wearing semi-nice clothes, getting lunchbreaks, having morning tea at the cafe, enjoying a decent salary, going to the gym, going to a night Bible study.
In 2015, I am:
Living on a farm three hours south of Perth.
Sharing a farmhouse with my husband and son (and one on the way).
Working 24/7 as a stay-at-home mum, with a few precious hours here and there to do some casual admin work every few months and to submit my first novel to publishers and literary agents.
Spending my days picking up toys, preparing food, napping with my boy, going for walks with my boy and the dogs, gardening, packing and unpacking the dishwasher, wiping up spills, washing and folding laundry, going to playgroup, going to a morning Bible study, calming a tantruming toddler.
So much has changed over the years.
And this blog has recorded all of it.
Thanks for reading.
In keeping with tradition, my blog has new party clothes.
It's nice when all of your friends get along, isn't it? Whether they are from the same friendship circle, or from different ones, peace among your friends is good. It certainly makes your special occasions a lot easier.
But what about when two (or more) of your friends are at war?
A lot of people think Switzerland was smart during the two World Wars. Little country, surrounded by warring countries. It was best for them to remain neutral, a 'safe place' where both sides could come. That way they don't get their butt blown sky high, don't have to choose sides, and can continue to be friends with everyone.
But when it comes to resolving conflict between our friends, we can't always be Switzerland.
As painful as it is, as much as it drags us out of our comfort zones, as much as we risk one or both of our friends hating us for calling a spade a spade, sometimes we MUST intervene, we MUST get involved, we MUST work for peace PROPERLY.
Here are some wrong approaches I think individuals and churches make when it comes to resolving (or ignoring) conflict:
The "Don't Fight, Kids. Kiss and Make Up" Approach
This is when we hear about two friends fighting and, instead of trying to get to the bottom of the issue, we treat them like kids. It's assuming the issue is a petty one, but often it's not. Sometimes it's a serious issue that needs a wise third party to intervene, listen to both sides, and help resolve the conflict properly. Kids may go to their parents whinging about each other, but if two adults come to you wanting help to resolve an issue, don't assume they're fighting over a toy or a lolly. As painstaking as it may be, they're coming to you for help. Even if they don't want help, they need it, so intervene. Telling two people to kiss and make up is just patronising and rude.
The "You're Both Sinners" Approach
Yes, it's true that all people involved in the conflict are sinners....but that doesn't mean they're equally to blame in this particular conflict. It doesn't mean that both need to apologise. Sometimes it's one person blatantly causing all the trouble and THEY'RE the one who needs to apologise - not both. The Ostrich Approach
This could otherwise be called the 'Keep Your Head in the Sand', or "You're Both My Friends, I Don't Want To Get Involved" approach. It's basically what Switzerland does. It's about self-preservation instead of standing up for what is right. What if the conflict is over adultery, or abuse of some kind? What if one friend is slandering another out of jealousy? Are you really ok with being friends with both of them while one is behaving badly?Yes, you may lose the friend you end up confronting, but if you do nothing, you may just end losing the friend you stood by and watched being hurt.
Not only does the unwillingness to resolve conflict between friends happen, it also happens a lot in churches. Yes, probably a lot of arguments are petty and time-consuming. But some aren't. Sometimes there is serious sin. Last year, Duncan was nominated to be an elder at our church (he didn't end up becoming one) and before he accepted the nomination, I asked him, "Are you prepared to be involved in conflict resolution as an elder?" He thought long and hard about it before accepting the nomination.
Sometimes we think that by standing back we're avoiding a full-blown war, with people dragged in from all directions. But sometimes a mature person needs to step in to put the smoke or small fire out before it becomes a blaze.
"If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take two or three others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses'. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector."