Last night I met Amy Gutman! I love her blog posts, but she’s even better in person – smart, funny, thought provoking. It’s been awhile since I’ve laughed that hard, or thought about HOW VERY MANY of us former lawyers are out here making our different ways in the world.
Toward the end of our visit, she asked, “What’s it like to live as a Christian in a place like Cambridge?” I didn’t know how to answer. You’d think I’d know – I wrote an entire chapter about it in my second book. But it’s been a few years since then, and I think my answer is different now. But I wasn’t sure how, or what to say.
I made a couple of jokes. Then I said something about how when people meet me, they’re often surprised to learn that I’m a Christian, because on the surface I don’t seem like the Christians you see on the special TV stations where you can send in money to be blessed. I drink wine and let fly with some colorful language; no one from the Bible Belt has called yet, asking me to be their poster child. (Which is good. I was the poster child for seeking faith at my old church and it was WEIRD, as people would glance back & forth from the picture of me with a lunatic smile on the wall, to the 3D me making coffee and setting out bagels, and never know what to say). And yet with or without poster child status, the most real thing about me is that I’m a Christian.
Here’s the truth: I’m a lot more like some of the the special TV station Christians than it’s cool to admit. I’ve sent in money from time to time, especially when I was first trying out the Biblical idea of tithing and didn’t yet have a church. And once you get to know Steve and I beyond casual pleasantries, we’re probably just as weird as the Duggars when it comes to how we make choices about what we watch and do, how we make decisions. We try to be careful about certain things because we believe it matters. But I wear pants and haven’t permed my hair since high school, so we blend in more :)
But these things don’t really answer Amy’s question. Her question was about the experience. This morning, I found a hint of my new, updated answer from this tiny passage in Matthew about the Kingdom of Heaven, where Jesus says:
“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”
That’s what finding Christian faith was like for me – it introduced me this world where I can SEE glimpses of the Kingdom of Heaven breaking in and interrupting things here on earth. Where somehow, reading the Bible and wrestling with the passages and asking God to speak and guide me – listening and responding – hones my vision. It changes how I see things, what I look for, what I notice. It gives me hope. It’s a surreal and awesome thing to believe that God wants to show us things and give us new perspective and understanding, and that even in the midst of disappointment and heartbreak and mind-numbing fury over injustice, the Kingdom of Heaven breaks in, unexpectedly: God showing up with miracles right in all the mess.
That is what it’s like to be a Christian here in Cambridge. It’s weird, and sometimes people avoid me because they’re afraid I’ll thump them with a Bible. There are days I totally wish my faith were hip & cool and made me a sought-after guest at dinner parties. (I love the conversations at dinner parties.) But I had hip/cool faith for about a decade, and while the surface was pretty awesome, it didn’t work when life got deep. There weren’t miracles or glimpses of God breaking through and restoring things. The Kingdom of Heaven didn’t feel near. Once Jesus told me, The Kingdom of Heaven is near, the desire to see it, to witness Him doing His thing in our complex city and our complex lives, overpowered my longing to be cool and socially smooth.
And THAT, my friends, is a miracle :)
(Thanks Amy, for the great question!)