A man sitting in a church pew and smiling

The Non-Conversion Conundrum: Miles’s Story

No matter how life buffets and rolls me, I have been given the gift of knowing that it will be well with my soul.

The Non-Conversion Conundrum: Miles’s Story

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Some insights…some experiences shock you and they stick with you. When I was sixteen I was attending a weekend retreat at Camp Casowasco which is a Methodist Retreat Center in the Finger Lakes region of New York. It was late and I was walking along the shores of Owasco Lake by myself. It was a clear night with a full moon and as I walked along I noticed a peculiar thing: the moon’s reflection was pointing at me…all the time.

I could walk forward or backward or jump up and down, but anywhere that I went on that lakeshore there was an elongated triangle of light ending right at my feet. It only took a moment before I realized that I had found an amazing metaphor for the presence of God. It was my personal experience, but anyone standing by that lakeshore would have experienced the exact same thing: the moonlight would have been pointing right at you too.

Now God, being even more capable than reflected light, is able to have this same relationship with all of us. Everyone at once can feel the presence of divine grace coming right at us like moonlight on the surface of a lake at night only waiting to be seen.

I remember another experience at a different retreat when the presence of the Holy Spirit became a palpable presence in the room as we sang together. It was a stirring warmth in my body that I have never forgotten. These experiences and others serve to me as powerful reminders of the visceral presence of God in the world…in my life. They have helped make it all real for me.

There is one experience that I don’t have that I never expect to have, and that is an experience of conversion. There is no point in my life when I can look at a moment and say,”Because of this moment, now I am a Christian.” I’ve always been a Christian I’m a Christian in the same way that I’m a male and have curly hair and an intolerance for lactose in the food that I eat. I didn’t become Christian. My faith was given to me grafted onto my being by the sacrament of baptism and by a family that knew how to teach about faith. It’s an incredible gift, a gift that I’ve been spending my whole life trying to understand and respond to.

To be honest I haven’t always wanted it. Not everybody who claims the faith of a Christian claims it in the same way, and some expressions of Christianity make me kindof want to run for the exit. But I can’t. Over and over again I find that I simply am Christian, bone and fiber.

The overarching question of faith then that has dogged me has never been a question of “why?” has never been a question of “what?” It has really been a question of “so what?” As in, “Well of course I’m a Christian, so what does that mean? What do I do with this gift that I’ve been given? How can I possibly respond adequately to the grace that has been showered onto my life?”

I suspect I know what Jesus would say. I definitely know what my grandfather said. He was really persistent and loud. Jesus I suspect would have me share this grace with everyone that I meet.

My grandfather would frequently alter a famous quote of Saint Francis. He would say to us, “Preach the gospel always, in everything that you do, at all times. And as a last resort, if you really need to, if there’s no other alternative, use words.”

In responding to the gift of my faith in my life I have chosen a career of service. I try to live simply. Most importantly, I try to engage everyone I meet with the care and understanding that every child of God deserves. Is it enough. No. What could ever possibly be enough? I will always be in debt to my family for the way I was raised and to God for being present for all of it.

I live my faith as best I can. I seek out others who are struggling with the same questions to receive the gift that they have received. I am continually and deeply grateful for the conviction that I am a beloved child of God, redeemed by the gift of Jesus, sustained by the Holy Spirit, grateful always that no matter how life buffets and rolls me, I have been given the gift of knowing that it will be well with my soul.