Tuesday, March 20, 2007


I mentioned in a comment on another blog today that I'd had a fantastic conversion experience in 1997. This was strange to me, because I am a cradle Episcopalian. I figured fantastic conversion experiences only came to people who had no religion. Of course, at the time, I wasn't practicing any religion, just trying to get along.

The context is this: I am 25 years old, married for 5 years, with a 3-year-old son and a 2-year-old daughter. My husband is taking a month-long class at a training center 200 miles away, so he commutes there for the week and comes home for weekends. I don't sleep as well when I'm alone in the big, empty bed. Although I don't realize it yet, I am reaching the tail end of my first documented hypomanic episode.

Each night, I dream the same dream. In the dream, I am walking through hallways in a building. The walls are white, and there are white doors with brushed chrome handles and no windows. I am looking for something, and in the dream that something was very certain, although I never did know what it was. I would walk, and walk, searching and searching. Then I would round one corner, and God would be standing there. I would react in increasing levels of frustration and/or disgust. "I'm not looking for you." So I would turn, and keep walking and walking, searching and searching.

I dream this dream night after night. I have no idea what it means, and it's frustrating me. Finally, one night, I walk and search, and I turn the corner and see God standing there. And in a fit of pique, I put my hands on my hips and say, "What?!? What do you want?"

God does not say anything in response, just looks at me, with those eyes as big as the oceans. And I wake up. On Sunday, I go to church, for the first time in about five years.

There have been a number of consequences that stemmed from my decision to go back to church, but nobody ever said it was easy to be a Christian. And if they did, they were a maroon (in keeping with my lenten fast from harsh speech, I don't want to say, well, you know), or at the very least completely ignorant of the gospels.

Last night, in the room where most deep thinking takes place, as I indulged in a long, hot soak, I thought about this conversion experience, particularly in light of the Benedictine vow of conversion of life. Under this vow, one promises to continue that conversion experience, to turn to God day after day after day. I was reminded of the merry-go-rounds that we used to play on at the playground. If you want to look at the center while the merry-go-round is spinning, you have to keep turning your head back, because the natural motion turns you toward the outside. Conversion of life is similar - we have to keep intentionally turning to God, because the natural motion of life sends us looking at all the other stuff out there.

And this reminded me of the annual council of the Diocese of Southern Virginia in 2004. The Rev. Frank Wade was the keynoter, and he talked about centripetal and centrifugal forces. He said that God is centripetal force - pulling things together - and that sin is centrifugal force - pulling us apart. His address was a poignant one and a powerful one, and that image of God as centripetal force has stayed with me.

So I'm going to stay on the merry-go-round for a while, but I'll keep turning my head toward the center, where God is, where God draws all of God's children.