This past week, I slid far outside of my comfort zone and read “The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert”– the story of Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, a woman who was transformed from the life of a lesbian university professor actively promoting the homosexual agenda, to a life totally committed to Christ by way of what she refers to as a “train-wreck conversion.” She is now the wife of a pastor, and doting mother of a whole family of adopted and much-loved children.
I don’t like reading this kind of stuff. And I won’t say I was “attracted” to reading this book, because I wasn’t. Honestly, I’m uncomfortable knowing about her past life, her lesbian, gay, and transvestite friends and the whole philosophy she gave her life to… but I also know that this was as necessary for me to read as it likely is for you, because it’s an issue that all of us Christians have to face.
Homosexuality is becoming more open than it’s ever been before, and if it hasn’t already, it’s going to become an issue that might very well touch close to home. A friend, maybe a relative may be struggling with it. Yet somehow, Christians have not been very successful in making the difference that we ought to be making in this battlefront– especially when we make jokes about it, point fingers, hold up signs, or even debate the issue. Eventually, we need to slow down, find out what’s going on in the minds of those who purport this philosophy, what’s at the base of the deception, and how we are to affectively “snatch them out of the fire.” Which is why I felt so compelled to read the book.
Not that homosexuality itself is the “Main Thing.” We’ve got to keep remembering that it’s the secondary issue, as this writer communicates so well. It’s the fruit of something much, much deeper. The blatant demonstration of homosexuality in today’s culture is the evidence, or the symptom, of a spreading-like-wildfire-Main-Thing which this author identifies as the disease itself: the sin of pride. Far from benign, pride is the cancerous self-exaltation that ultimately sets itself above the authority of the eternal God. It’s the worship of the self. It’s the sin of embracing a self-centered (even “self-righteous”) theology whereby man becomes his own god, his own source of righteousness– and scoffs at, belittles, the God-centered reality whereby all authority– all authority– comes from Him. He Himself determines the rules for every detail of life, with no exceptions.
We shouldn’t be surprised when we see fruit, and it was inevitable for the current obsession of man with himself to manifest itself in a growing pattern of deception, as we are seeing in the flaunting exposures of homosexuality. In this book, Rosaria Butterfield takes us just where I had hoped she would– into her mind, and into what she was thinking as a practicing lesbian. But more important, it also takes us beyond that, through the journey that led to her “train wreck” conversion. In essence, until any individual believes and accepts by faith the ultimate authority of Jesus Christ over every detail of his or her life– which means dying to every self-serving passion and desire – our attempts to try to stamp out the symptoms just aren’t going to make sense.
That’s why Rosaria Butterfield refers to her conversion as a “train wreck,” which to me was the very greatest impact– the main idea– of this book. For far too long, Christianity has erroneously been presented as something easy, benign, and sweetly personal. (All those who are guilty say “I”!) We imply to others that if they would just say the magic words and accept Jesus into their hearts, life will become blissful– their sickness will be healed, their finances will be secure, everything in their lives will be comfortable and happy– as though Jesus wants us to be comfortable and happy– as though “we” are the center, and Jesus just can’t wait to be our personal genie.
In truth, when Jesus invaded this writer’s life, her life became very, very uncomfortable– in fact painful. She described it as a “train wreck,” as every corner of her world and philosophy was shattered, in order that God Himself could rebuild it, piece by miniscule piece. In this book, the writer jerks our focus away from “us” and what Jesus can do to make us happy, to what happens in us when “He” is the focus. This author has showed us what true conversion really is– “laying it all down” for the sake of such great and passionate committment to the true center, to Jesus Christ.
When I saw the all-encompassing sacrifices for the sake of passionate obedience to Jesus Christ that this author made– I was sobered and deeply, deeply convicted. For her, becoming a follower of Jesus Christ meant denying the very philosophy and worldview that she had so staunchly and publicly supported and lived her life for… it meant giving up her lesbian lifestyle (though at the time, she did not “want” to let go of it– it was totally an act of obedience that God blessed after the fact)… it meant the change of a very public and successful career that till then had defined who she was… it meant being considered a traitor to all the friends, students, coworkers she had so actively shared her life with. Her whole identity was touched by this conversion. As she wrote, it was like looking into a mirror and seeing nothing at all. She had no idea who she was now, or what would become of her life from that point on– it was total trust.
But from that point on, God faithfully “re-built” her life into something vastly satisfying, gratifying, and glorious– not necessarily always comfortable, but definitely God-glorifying.
I don’t know if I have ever read such an articulate expression of what it means to “die to self,” or if I have ever read such an articulate expression of what a “transformed life” really means. It was sobering, convicting… and gave more hope than I could ever imagine.
So what does it mean for us? We may not have the past that she did, and we may not understand those who do– but we all have a past, a present, and a future, and God is still in the process of transforming us too. If we truly want to be used by God as His Hands reaching out to rescue those who are struggling in this way, we’ve got to be committed to the long haul, not quick fixes.
Recently I was chatting with my son and daughter-in-law, and he said something like this: If somebody is lost and wants help to find the right destination, we can do one of several things. God forbid, we can make fun of them because they’re lost. Or we can hand them a map and wish them well. Or we can give them verbal directions and hope it makes sense. Or we can say, “Listen, why don’t you come with me and I’ll take you there?”
Are we willing to be that committed? Okay, son, you got my attention… and this book showed me how.
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