Rust Cohle and My Recent Conversion

Rust Cohle and My Recent Conversion August 12, 2014
Image from screenshot

Do you want to hear about my recent conversion?

It just happened. I mean, you don’t have to believe me or anything. You might be suspicious about this sort of story. Sometimes I am too.

See, back when I was a member at that Reformed Baptist church, they talked about conversion constantly. It was an obsession, to the point that most of the people in the church were unsure if they’d been “truly saved.” There were lots of them who were just about the most dedicated churchfolk you’d ever met who also thought they were unregenerate and hellbound. The neo-Puritan, Edwardsian-revivalist kind of approach had them waiting for an experience of the sovereign hand of God, reaching into their hearts to powerfully convict them of their desperate sinful condition and redeem them to a life of remarkable righteousness.

Until then, they sat on the “anxious bench” waiting to be converted.

That’s not really the kind of conversion I just experienced though. In fact, for me, initial coming to faith in Christ happened pretty early on in my life and has been a slow and gradual journey ever since. There was no radical change, no darkness to light, no “I used to be THIS, but now I’m THIS because of Jesus!” I mean, that stuff is fine, but it just wasn’t my experience. For me it’s been a journey of choosing to believe in Jesus followed by progress and regress and progress and step by step learning and growing.

My recent conversion was not about coming to faith in some total sense, with the threat of hell and sorrow over how terrible I am moving me to trust in the bloody cross and commit to a life of holiness. It didn’t have the anxiety-inducing baggage of God’s wrath towards sin in general and me in particular, nor all the contrived pressure of a radical lifestyle shift from, say, drugging and pimping to singing and serving.

Yet, this experience I just had was radical. It was sudden. It did seem to come from outside of me, graciously, providentially, almost against my will. It really was a work of God in the depths of my heart.

And it happened immediately after watching the season finale of True Detective.

(Yes, God speaks to me through the TV, mainly.)

The reason this show impacted me so deeply, and acted as a catalyst for my recent conversion, is likely because the main character Rust Cohle (played by Matthew McConaughey) undergoes a sort of conversion himself in that final episode. I won’t get into the particulars and spoil it, but it is, in the most fundamental sense, a darkness to light experience. In fact, Rust says as much in the final scene:

There’s only one story, the oldest. Light versus dark.

Once there was only dark. If you ask me, the light’s winning.

The previous cynical and nihilistic personality of the character makes these words astounding – impossible, even. But there he was, on the screen, confessing an entirely new perspective on the world and his own life. And there I was, in my Ikea recliner, beginning to experience something very similar.

I realize that the groundwork for this has been laid by some of things I’ve been thinking about, praying about, and writing about (sometimes here) over the last few months. But it all came to a head in those moments. I could feel something melting away – a perspective, an outlook, a personality that I had adopted, clung to, and defended over the last few years somehow being shed.

The darkness of unbelief clearing, and the light of purpose and meaning in Christ returning.

There were ugly tears and gutteral prayers and unexpected words coming out of me from I don’t know where. There was conviction – but not in the dramatic guilty sense, in the sense of confident belief moving into the place where there has long been pain and questioning and confusion. There was that strange sense of coming home, of fog clearing, of a hope and a future emerging, materializing, as if out of nowhere.

I’m not sure I can explain it to you much beyond that, so I probably shouldn’t try.

And you don’t have to believe me – really, you don’t.

But as for me, I am going forward, and I’m not going back, because I believe – I mean, I really believe – that the light is winning.

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  • I’ve always been a sucker for a good redemption story, and the True Detective season finale was incredibly moving for me as well. Also, I just love that God mainly speaks to you through TV. I know that side of God myself (for me, it’s Wes Anderson movies). Thank you for writing this!

  • I believe you, Zach. And I, too, believe the light is winning. But god there’s still a lotta dark…

  • Bethany, me too! Love that narrative element. And I LOVE that God speaks to you through Wes Anderson. That’s amazing. Thanks for reading :).

  • So much dark. And thanks for believing :).

  • Janel Varner

    Zach! My cousin writes for Deeper Story! Interesting read. Now, I just need to watch the show… Good to see you on here! 🙂

  • Susan Schmidt

    I, too, am having a conversion of sorts. It’s a deeper trust and thankfulness in the power and love of Jesus to be at work in His world, bringing the Kingdom here. It allows me to rest, while encouraging me to be a collaborator, a co-laborer with Jesus in this work of loving restoration. It’s gospel – good news – and fills me with hope.

  • Stacey

    The light is winning. Amen and thank you for ALL this. ThankFUL for everything that lead to this.

  • So beautiful to read, Zach! And OF COURSE TV and movies and books and poems – all speak to the heart of us and can often lead to conversion. While I’ve been laid up this summer I’ve been watching way too many reruns of Bones – and I find it there, too. Love this – and now I must check out this series.

  • Mike

    And here I sit on the anxious bench waiting for such a conversion. I know its coming but I thought I was crazy at best or lost at worse.

  • Thanks Janel! Glad you’re a reader :).

  • Susan, that’s beautiful. Thanks so much for sharing :).

  • Thanks so much Stacey :).

  • Thanks Diana! I’m glad you find God speaking there too. I’ve heard good things about Bones :).

  • Keep waiting brother. It will come. It really really will.

  • Janel

    Glad you’re a writer. 🙂 Enjoying reading about your “journey”. Say hello to Kalen for me.

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