I wrote this account of my personal Come to Jesus moment some years ago. I used it when I had to give an account of my spiritual life in EfM, though more and more I think it is the whole of my spiritual life. I still feel the same, but I am having a hard time with the phony religion that humans have made in place of the one Jesus described. I don’t think Jesus would even recognize himself in the churches today. So I’m jaded and feel disconnected, but that’s my fault. That said, here is an account of my rebirth. And, believe me, I do not feel special because of it. I feel despondent, as though I have let someone down.
“It was a weekday morning and I was picking up the clothes off the bedroom floor, neatening up a little before going out to the studio to work. As I recall, I wasn’t thinking of anything in particular. All of a sudden I began to see a vivid picture in my mind – not a dream, and not a thought inspired by me. I saw a man, with his back to me. It was a bright, sunny day. He was wearing a dusty-rose colored robe. I could see the loose weave of the fabric. He turned around, and I knew instantly that I was seeing Jesus Christ. He looked radiant. He was walking through a mass of unhappy people, but he didn’t seem to be bothered by them. He just kept walking – and then the picture stopped. As it stopped, I heard these phrases: God is alive…and Jesus is everything He said He was in the Bible. Just like that. It was crystal clear, and it was everything. I was absolutely thunderstruck. It was like I had been carrying around the pieces of a cosmic puzzle all my life, and suddenly all the pieces fell into place. It was like tumblers opening a lock. Everything looked curiously whole…and integrated. I walked to the wide windows of my room and looked out at the trees. Even they looked different, bright and new and…different. I am not exaggerating or embroidering what happened. It happened just that way, and try as I might, I cannot make it happen again. When I read about these experiences by other people – Reynolds Price, Saint Augustine, Martin Luther, John Wesley – when I hear about them first hand from friends and fellow travelers in faith, I feel a gracious affinity with them all.
At first I thought I should just go get in the car and ride around and stop people in the street, like a herald, like Paul Revere – and tell them the news. And then I started wondering why in the world such a thing had happened to such as me, a faithless weakling, a true sinner. I still wonder – and I don’t think I will ever know the answer to that – but I do know that that moment turned my life around on a dime. It was exactly like dying and being born new. Of all the events in my life, that split second is the most vivid and the most profound. I am still the same lousy person, still weak and fearful – but I know where to look now, and I am working as hard as I can to be worthy of my gift. I have been most at home in the Cursillo groups. I continue to paint to have an income, but more and more I yearn for a life devoted to an active ministry, to indeed be Jesus’ hands and feet here on earth. I want to share what I call Knowing, what Thomas Merton called Awareness, with everyone and seek such a venue.
In reading and studying the New Testament and in reading the works of theologians (including C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity and Paul Tillich’s The Courage to Be and others) I have concluded that we do not take seriously the teachings of Jesus Christ – and that we ignore Him at our peril. He asks us to be “perfect” and I think He means it. Although I know that I have never been able to live up to His directions, I think that we should have this lofty goal, that we should somehow try to find a way to discern The Way, God’s Way, even as we go through the difficulties of our human lives. In the depths of my despair over my son’s illness, I prayed for the peace that passes understanding. It we strive continuously for that goal, I am sure we will find that peace.”
Everybody calls their life a journey – it’s cliche – but now this journey of mine has taken me to a precipice and I am looking around me and it is not a pretty sight. God gave me certain talents and I am supposed to use them, but talents also take you into foreign territory where the rules change and there you are. Yes, there you are.