Friday, April 23, 2010

I Heard the Bells

I love a conversion story, whether it details the shift from absence of belief to the embracing of it, or perhaps a faith that isn't drawn upon or remembered, and suddenly something happens to jolt one into a new awareness.

I could read an entire book of conversion stories, and never grow weary of them. I stuck with Thomas Merton throughout his, and wasn't disappointed, as he transitioned from a college student swayed mostly by debauchery to newly baptized Catholic to a Trappist monk. And yes, that's quite a transition.

My own story is brief, and for some reason, or a myriad of reasons, I cannot share it in detail. Sometimes I feel like if I do, then I chip away at its meaning for me. Sometimes I feel like if I think about it too much, I start questioning its authenticity. When it comes to manifestations of God, I've always been more like Agent Mulder rather than Agent Scully. Agent Mulder believed in aliens, and not much else. Agent Scully believed in God, and always had a scientifically based rebuttal to Mulder's beliefs. (Oh, X-Files, I miss you!)

Unlike Agent Mulder, I do believe in God, but I always have questions. I don't embrace and believe as often as I'd like. So I worry that the more I examine my experience, the more likely I am to pick it apart, and chalk it up to coincidence or some other earthly reason. Additionally, there is the nagging suspicion that I am simply not worthy of God's voice. Why would He talk to me?

But He did. And, at least, that's the story I'm sticking to for now.

Sometimes when I think of the particular prayer I had said the night before my moment, and what I had asked for, I get this little chill. Goosebumps, I think, and laugh about it, like there's a bit of the Holy Spirit left in my memory of things, and it rises through firing neurons to manifest on my skin. To manifest in the remembering.

I think of my child -- who, at the time, was 3 years, 4 months old -- and how she answered my prayer the next morning. How she spoke of the concern I whispered in the dark of my room, as she slept. How she gave voice to wisdom way beyond her years in a single sentence.

Anne Lamott once wrote that she wished we could hear bells to announce the coming of grace in our daily lives, so we could embrace it more, and be aware of it. A celestial ding-dong to help us survive and deal.

I heard the bells, or rather felt them, but after, not before, when my eyes became ridiculously watery sitting across from my child, realizing at that moment God was talking to me. Me. And He was using my child to do it.

I wasn't faithless at the time. I was starting to re-explore, reading out of curiosity and starting to attend Mass again. So while perhaps my experience isn't exactly a conversion, I kind of view it as a divine kick in the pants. And I'm grateful for it.

Not worthy. But grateful.


Anonymous said...

I know what you mean, Kelly. I get goosebumps even during the retelling of moments of grace. I often shed tears at church, and especially during some of the ceremonies and special Masses I've been through in the past months. I'm somewhat at a loss to explain it, but equally unwilling to try to explain it. You'd think by now I'd remember to bring tissues.

Rima said...

I love that you shared this, Kelly! I have had similar experiences, but if I were to try to construct a narrative around them, they would start to seem trivial, even though I know in my heart of hearts that they are not.

mayberry said...

Wow -- a lovely story. Thank you.

MemeGRL said...

That's beautiful. Isn't it amazing when that happens? Thanks for sharing.
Meanwhile, have you read the "Conversion Diary" blog? I enjoy her quite a bit, mostly I think due to her continued surprise at her own conversion. (One of my favorite examples: ten years ago, she was on a party bus with one of the gross-out humor movie kings of last summer. And as an aside, she wrote in her blog, if you had pulled the two of them together on the bus and said, In a decade, one of you is going to convert to Catholicism and write about it on the internet, she wouldn't have lost a moment in looking at him and saying DUDE. You are going to be so LAME.)

Gwen said...

I love Anne Lamott. Christians like her, and you, and my grandmother, and my genius friend John, make me wonder if I'm not just completely wrong about the whole thing.

Fran said...

How did I miss this? Wow - I am rendered speechless.

And you can write. Holy crap, can you ever.