I recently finished reading The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield. It’s a book that’s generating a lot of buzz and for good reason. It is well-written, beautifully so, thought-provoking, and compelling: all that a good book ought to be. And I liked it. Very much so. Though, like nearly every other review I’ve read, I don’t agree with the author on all points, I highly recommend it.
I will be honest though and admit that the book left me a little unsettled. The account of her conversion is nothing short of amazing and I love that the author describes herself as an unlikely convert. Truly we are all unlikely converts, dead as we are in our sins and transgressions, children of wrath, hating the things of the Lord. Yet, coming to Christ out of the radical feminist lifestyle Rosaria not merely embraced but loved and enjoyed, it is, as I said, amazing. She describes her conversion as a train wreck–a complicated and comprehensive chaos–and I like that. How neatly we attempt to wrap our conversion stories into tidy little packages with happy-clappy endings. Of course, Rosaria enjoys a happy ending but it was not without a total transformation of her entire life: professional, personal, spiritual. Becoming a Christian wasn’t a slightly embarrassing dint to her reputation; her Christianity meant a loss of everything that was familiar.
This isn’t the part that unsettles me. Quite the opposite. I love reading testimony of the power of God to save! There is no one beyond His reach! I was also challenged by the extent of Rosaria’s sacrifice of her old life. Christ is worth it all, I realized yet again, and I rejoiced in His worthiness as I was convicted to count the cost. I also enjoyed reading of her philosophical wrestling with the gospel and I couldn’t help but wonder why I’m not having those same sorts of conversations.
At the conclusion of the book, Rosaria devotes the last several pages to her current life as pastor’s wife, mom, homeschooler, and foster parent. These accounts are happily written and beautifully expressed but, just keeping it real, I felt at times as though she were giving me her resume. This is where I am unsettled. Do I feel so because I sense conviction over my lack of hospitality, for example? I am sure that she shares about her family life in order to demonstrate the redemption the Lord has accomplished for His glory. So why my twinge of dismay when she tells of her five year old’s academic prowess or of the countless college students she ministers to or of the various foster children they have cared for? Am I really so petty?
I was talking about this with a friend of mine who had recently read a missionary’s autobiography and was feeling much the same sort of vague unsettling. We agreed that though we must be sensitive to the conviction of the Spirit–and there is much for me to be convicted about, believe you me–we must also remember we are different, with different strengths, different vocations, different gifts, different spheres of influence. How easily we, women in particular, fall prey to the trap of comparison! And how easily that comparison leads to either discontent or self-loathing. Let us instead be true to the call of the gospel in our lives and not to another’s example.
Not all examples are poor ones and not all comparison is detrimental. I do need to cultivate hospitality and, though I may not need to emulate it on all points, Rosaria’s example is a good one in that regard. We must be both discerning and humble as we seek to follow the Lord and love our neighbor in whatever our current life’s vocation may be. We are all unlikely converts and we all have opportunity aplenty to proclaim the gospel. May we be found faithful, giving glory to God in all that we do.