I found some words in the archives of this blog, in March of 2012. They were taken from a reflection posted in March of 2011. Now, I am moved to present them again, with numerous revisions in the continuing search for greater clarity. Behind these words are many particular stories, and they continue to happen in new ways. But this is still true, even as these friendships continue and new friendships are born.
Indeed, this is what has opened my life to the world, engendering in me a surprising courage and a greater openness to all kinds of people. I know that this life that has been given to me is worth sharing. This is why I am online, pouring out my reflections and my sufferings and my struggle with temptations to discouragement. I hope, in the midst of all of this stuff, that you might catch a glimpse of the Pearl of Great Price.
I did not begin to take Jesus Christ seriously in my life because I had a mystical vision, or some kind of paranormal experience. I discovered, in a new way, that Christ was real when I met a group of friends who really followed Him, and who also lived life with exuberance, vitality, interest, freedom, and joy.
I met people who were able to be themselves without constraint, who were glad to be alive, who were ready to give and sacrifice themselves and also to have fun, whenever having fun was the appropriate way to respond to the reality at hand. And it is often appropriate, because real human life is full of so much that is ironic, so much that is beyond our control, unexpected, petty, burdensome, so much that is a little bit ridiculous.
In front of real human life, some people are cynical, while others are distracted, detached, or sad. The miracle in front of real human life is cheerfulness, an innocent spirit that is not dislodged by life because it knows the place of everything. It is a playful wisdom. It is joy. It is more than resilient in the face of suffering; it reaches out to others with tenderness; it endures great pain and sorrow with an intrepid patience, with a radiant hope.
I met some people. They were not perfect people. Far from it. They often forgot about this life, betrayed it, and failed, miserably, to live it. They were sinners, but they had a place to bring their guilt and be healed and changed, again and again.
It was a miracle that they lived this life at all, but it was even more amazing that this life continued to be restored, renewed, and to grow deeper. It was stronger than the sins and all the ambiguity of these people. It was continually changing them, drawing them on, building them up. It was a new life, transforming the very real and very human lives of these ordinary people.
And it stirred a question in my soul: "How is it possible to live this way?" What I saw was not an illusion or a dream. It was a fact. And I wanted to live this way too. I wanted this implacable, unconquerable joy and hope at the center of my own life, but I couldn't give it to myself; I couldn't make myself this way.
It was clear that this life was a gift, and that it was only made possible by Someone Else.
This is what converted me to Christ. Not scrupulous religious intensity. Not intellectual brilliance. Not the desire for a safe place to hide. What converted me was meeting a group of people who believed that it might be possible for life to be wonderfully happy after all, even with all its mysterious burdens and suffering. I saw with my own eyes that the life that had been given to us was good and beautiful. I saw that the laughter of children was not a deception destined to end in disappointment. Not because life is easy, but because there is Someone that makes every minute of it worth living, and even embracing with joy.
This is what converted me to Christ: the miracle of human beings who were glad to be alive, who were full of hope, who had found something greater than their fears.