How My Wife Took the News of My Sudden Conversion

At the time of my conversion I’d been married to my wife Catherine (or Cat, as she’s known by … well, me) for sixteen years. Throughout that time (and for all the rest of my life before then) I couldn’t have been any less of a Christian if I had horns sticking out of my head and cloven hoof-feet.

I simply had no respect for Christianity: it seemed to me like nothing more than a laughably simplistic, obviously man-made, fear-based system designed to exploit and capitalize on two of people’s most dependable, inborn weaknesses: guilt, and the need for a father’s unconditional love.

People being “forgiven” and “saved.” I mean, c’mon. If ever there was a religion for the mentally bereft, I figured Christianity was it. I actually felt that saying someone was a Christian was about as condemning a thing as you could say about them — since, to me, it meant they were guaranteed to be smug, self-righteous, judgmental, and reflexively dismissive of the beliefs of everyone who wasn’t a Christian. (Of course, like all bigots, I somehow managed to disassociate from that malicious stereotyping those Christians who were, in fact, my friends. They were different.)

And then suddenly I was one of the people I’d always held in such disdain.

That God. He sure knows how to turn your life into one riotous sitcom that’s totally missing a laugh track.

My conversion experience happened at the tail end of a week during which Cat was out of town on a business trip. The man she left behind on that trip was the Happy Heathen Husband whom she’d always known and tolerated. The man waiting for her at the airport the night she flew home was … well, holding a Bible, for one.

“Is that a Bible?” Cat asked, after having jumped in my arms and hugged and kissed me so much it was all I could do to pretend it embarrassed me.

“Um, yes,” I said. We started walking toward the baggage claim.

Cat stopped in her tracks.

“What’s up?” I said.

She closed the distance between us, and fixed me with her humongous brown eyes that always seem directly piped in from … well, God.

“Something’s going on with you,” she said. “What is it?”

See, this is the problem with marrying a woman with freakish intuitive powers. I could be just thinking about, say, arctic seals — and she’d go, “I just got cold. Are you cold?” It’s like living with Cassandra, the Mystical Empath. Drives me bonkers.

“No, no,” I said, trying to sound casual. I didn’t want to tell her at the airport. “Nothing’s wrong. Everything’s good.”

“I didn’t say anything was wrong,” she said. “I said something was going on with you. You seem … different.”

“Well, a week is the longest we’ve ever been apart. I’m surprised you recognized me at all. In fact, when you first came off the plane, I saw you heading for that other guy, that cop-looking guy. You thought he was me. Oh, sure, he was handsome. If he hadn’t been so groomed, you’d probably be going home with him right now.”

Cat reached up and scratched my beard stubble. “I do like the furry types.”

About halfway through our drive home from the airport, she said, “So? When are you going to tell me what’s going on with you?”

“There’s nothing going on with me” I said, just a tad too intensely. I didn’t want to tell her while I was driving. “I mean, there’s nothing.”

“You are so lying,” she said.

“I’m not,” I lied. “Nothing’s wrong. Everything’s fine.”

“You bought me something, didn’t you? You’ve got some kind of expensive gift waiting for me at home, don’t you?”

“I wish. But I’m sure you remember the state of our finances before you left. Believe me, they haven’t improved since then. We’re lucky if we haven’t been evicted by the time we get home.”

“And there’s nothing going on with you.”

“No. Nothing. Everything’s fine.”

“Hmmph,” she said — which, in our private, married-for-sixteen-years language, meant, “You’re keeping me in the dark about something, which of course I’m displeased about. But since I can tell whatever you’re hiding is good, you must have your own reasons for keeping it from me. So I’ll wait a little bit longer for you to tell me what it is. But not much. And I definitely won’t forget.”

“So,” she said next, “tell me about your week. Anything happen?”

I flipped on the turn signal and changed lanes. “Oh, you know. Just the usual sort of stuff. Made some lasagna that came out pretty good. Went and saw a movie. Fixed that little leak we had under the bathroom sink. Became a Christian. Got the oil changed on the car. Did some laundry.”

“What did you say?”

“What? Whaddayamean?”

“What was that last thing you said?”

“That I did some laundry?”

“No, not that you did some laundry. Before that. The part about you becoming a Christian.”

“Oh, right, right. Well, yes. I mean … yes. There it is. That’s actually something that also actually happened.”

We drove a long while after that in silence. Cat knows that when I have something to tell her that’s of real emotional importance to me, it takes me about forever to begin. I don’t know why I’m like that. It’s like a hundred people all trying to squeeze through a door at once: none come out at all. They have to get organized first.

“So,” she finally said. “Tell me.”

“I will,” I said. I gave her my hand, which she placed on her lap, cradling it in both of her hands. “Of course I will. But let’s wait till we get home.”

So we did.

And I did.

And on the following Sunday Cat went with me to church. She wanted to be with me.

At the church that morning, and throughout all of her Bible studying for the next year or two, she was gratified to find nothing actually in the Bible that contradicted her unwavering sense of what she’d always thought of as simply the Good.

“People read all kinds of stuff into the Bible that isn’t even there,” she said. “And Paul’s not saying homosexuality is unnatural. He’s saying full abandonment to lust is unnatural.”

About a year and a half after we started going to church together, Cat was baptized a Christian.

And here we are.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Beautiful, John. And, of course, hilarious.

  • Kate

    This is beautiful. I love Cat. Many spouses haven't taken the news so well or gone to church with their husband/wife. Thanks for sharing!

  • Jill

    Your life is missing a laugh track? You should keep some teenagers around.

  • Dang! I didn't even know Cat's COULD become Christians… Just kidding! A very cool story John. I found your website through HuffPo and I'm really glad I did — great stuff. It's refreshing to see a Christian who actually cops to being a regular, plain old, REAL person!

  • Robert D. Meek, Jr.

    Truly inspiring, Mr. Shore. I cannot help but admire how open you are to people about your life, feelings, and experiences. I know – witness, etc., but you know as well as me that most average "Christians" who "witness" do not really make it based on any part of their private lives but merely a matter of cramming their personal theology down someone else's throat. I know, been there, done that, was one of them, on that side of things. We had no compassion but we told ourselves we did. Oh, well, I am wasting way too much time on Ancient History of my life.

  • Robert D. Meek, Jr.

    Uh, the point I was trying to get to was that it must make you feel vulnerable to be so honest, but again, this is very admirable of you.

  • You have a good wife. After 16 years of marriage she was willing to take that journey with you. These days they would look at it as a way out. I'm very happy you have that kind of relationship with your wife, as well as with God.

  • Jerri Harrington

    John, that is a beautiful story about yours and Cat’s conversion. I understand Cat’s thinking of God as , The Good. He is. Thanks for posting this again. Jerri

  • Vivian

    Oh! That was very heart warming. It brings hope that God willing all things are possible and at any given time. Love that you shared that. Would love to see the picture of her baptism.

  • Nancye

    But,HOW did it happen?

  • Oh.

    That gutted me a bit.

    I’m still waiting for my husband to come around. As church kids, we left “religion” because of separate incidences of hideous persecution, I in my Evangelical, and he in his Baptist pasts. If our story came from eHarmony, that church-disassociation would have been 1 of our 29 points of compatibility. It took me 20 years to get over the hate, and figure out freedom and healing. I guess it’s taking him longer. It doesn’t help that golf is proving to be an awesome god to lean on every Sunday.

  • John: Lovely. Happy tale nicely told. 🙂 I’m a reader who wondered and didn’t ask.

    Hey Sherry- I’m with you. We could talk sometime

  • She took it quite well. That shows what a great relationship you two have.

  • Sherry and Beth, count me among your ranks. My conversion was almost four years ago, and my husband still hasn't come around. He's not quite as freaked out and angry anymore, so I guess that's a start… John, thank you so much for your wonderful honesty and humor.

  • brdonaldson

    I'm kinda soft today…that last line killed me.

  • Don Gollahon

    Tears are flowing from my eyes! 3 AM and I'm sitting here all wet….

  • I started reading your blog a couple weeks ago, and am really enjoying it.

  • Sherry G

    My husband goes to church every Sunday come rain or come shine. I don't. I do appreciate his choice to attend. I think it feeds him in a way that helps him be a very good man, boss, husband and father. He was raised in a strict Southern Baptist home but he doesn't push his church on me. I'm very grateful.

  • Lara

    I'm in love with both of you. Polygamy is is quite common in the Bible–can I marry you two?

  • Thomas

    I like you, John Shore. Want to be friends?

  • Your spontaneity in inserting “Became a Christian” was a stroke of genius. And thanks for sharing this beautiful story. I’m happy for both you and Cat.

  • Stacey E

    I don't think it's as important to be a Christian or a regular church goer.

    Is your husband a decent person? Does he live a good life?

    I think it's much more important to be a decent "atheist", than it is to be a spiteful "Christian". I've come across too many people who make sure you know that they're Christians, who have no business claiming the title. Too many people think the title alone gives them free reign to be liars, cheaters, spiteful, rude, you name it.

    The really irritating thing is the Born-Agains who think a litle speech given in front of others gives them a ticket to heaven, and the rest of us can't get in. My version of being born again is reincarnation. There isn't a single thing in the Bible that says their version is right.

  • Kilyle

    No, no, it's *Buddhism* that says cats can't go to heaven.

    Or so one of my old storybooks told me. Would it lie?

  • Really beautiful. To truly love is to be alive.

  • Kilyle

    I agree, we Christians can be… “irritating” is mild, don’t you think?

    When we present the “good news” in a way that only turns people away, it’s… sigh. If you’re sure of what you believe, it’s easy to act like you know the truth and anyone who doesn’t accept it is just being wilfully blind. That sort of attitude doesn’t help. This is something I’ve been struggling with recently.

    I feel for you, Sherry. I hope you experience God’s loving shoulder on a daily basis as you go through this. Be assured that there are many, many more like you. Maybe read Lee Strobel’s book on spiritually mismatched marriages: He and his wife speak from personal experience.

    And Stacey… I guess the thing is, beliefs have consequences. If you’re intellectually honest, you follow the evidence to wherever it leads, and once you’ve found something you can believe in, you take those beliefs seriously and act on their implications. One of the base implications of Christianity is “humans are desperately sick and in need of a doctor named Jesus.” Acting on this implication is… difficult to do without offending people. A lot of Christians do it very badly. But the idea is to help people understand that help is out there. “We’re just one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.”

    The bedrock for Christianity is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, as attested more thoroughly than any other facts in history. I encourage you to explore that assertion for yourself. And if you determine that there’s enough evidence to believe in the resurrection as fact, then figure out where that leads you.

  • Lonnie

    Wonderful, refreshing story. I love that “nothing contradicted her unwavering sense of… the Good” and that bit about homosexuality.

    Hmmm… maybe I have to give ol’ apostle Paul another look through fresh eyes….

    And John, you can’t hear it audibly, but your life definitely has a laugh track. And an applause track. It’s all of us – your great cloud of witnesses. 🙂

  • Jim Miller

    This is one of the best things I’ve ever read. Ever. This is too:

    I’m struck by how similar your story is to that of Matt Chandler, an author and pastor who comes to very, very different exegetical conclusions than you appear to. (I’m speaking from the vast research of reading blog post titles and the subtitle of your book.)

    I love God for doing the same kind of thing for two very different guys.

  • Erin

    My brother is one of those decent atheists. He is insightful, kind, compassionate – he really can put his heart into another person’s situation. The way I see it is that (if there is a heaven 🙂 ), he’s in line way ahead of all the people who say the magic words and do things because they are afraid of hell rather than just doing things because they are the right thing to do. My personal belief is that a person can, most definitely, live according to the spirit of Christ without actually believing in him!