Back in my room, I sat cross-legged in the dark against my bed, mesmerized by the flickering of the single candle lit on my mantel. I watched it turning blue, turning red, turning orange, and even a thread of green. But no pink, to my relief.
I opened my Bible to the beginning of the Gospel of John. I did not feel much like reading the Bible, but if I’m going to be accused of being holier-than-thou, I might as well make the most of it, I thought cynically.
I began reading, and the more I read, the more I wanted to read. Once the Bible gets under your skin, in its powerfully charismatic way, if you pardon the pun, then we all have favorite passages, or perhaps a certain specific passage that particularly spoke to us at a significant moment. For me, as a lover of literature, and that particular night, it was the opening chapter of John.
As I sat there in my tiny room with the slanted floor, the words started blurring on the page. Before I knew it, tears escaped my eyes. I tried blinking them away, but they kept coming.
I blinked again. Hard. The words on the page came into sharp focus. Then everything all of a sudden became very, very clear.
I knew that Jesus was who He said He was. Plain and simple and true and everlasting.
I knew that I wanted to know Him. To know Him first, and then to know Him better.
I knew that I had been an idiot, proud and imperfect, despite all my best efforts. I had been hard on myself and hard on others. Who would have guessed that when you really look at it, perfectionism (like anything else) can be a sin?
Everywhere I turned in the labyrinth, I was met by an impenetrable wall. The only way out was to be lifted up, or a ladder out of my want. There existed no act, no achievement, nothing I could do. The only freedom was in faith. And then I knew what I did not want. I did not want to return home, wherever that may be, again and again in my life, to no one, and finally, to nothing of any importance. I did not want my life to be empty, a regurgitation of excess, no matter how fluorescent, or a desperate existentialist filling of a bucket with a hole in the bottom. I did not want to live according to the meaningless exchange of bodily fluids, sweating among strangers, maneuvering amid pseudointimate relationships.
Christ offered a bridge over the gap I felt, sitting there on the floor, between my self and my own soul. Between my God and me. I wanted to know God and to be known by Him—a relationship so intimate that there was no space between Him and my soul.
But it was not as if I could shut my eyes tight, concentrate, and just make it happen as I had done with virtually everything else in my life, from the positives, like getting good grades, to the negatives, like denial. The leap seemed so impossible, so hard, too far.
Then a story from the Gospel of Mark jumped into my head. Scripture has a way of working like that. Be forewarned. …
And it appeared that for us particularly hard nuts to crack, the only answer is prayer.
I wanted the real thing. The Real Thing.
“Lord, help me overcome my unbelief.”
A simple prayer.
So brazen after the complete disregard for the presence and power of the Almighty in life and in death. Not even a prayer from belief, but a prayer to overcome disbelief. The lowliest of requests.
But at least, from me, the real thing.
And then, just like that, I was on the other side—the other end of the chasm. Through me, over me, beyond me. Safe. Saved. . . .
Outwardly I seemed the same, but inwardly everything had changed. I went to the window and watched the birth of the dawn. Everything, every thing appeared in this better light, this brighter light.
-Carolyn Weber in Surprised by Oxford, p. 267-271.