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.”
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 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.