Friday, April 22, 2011

An atheist's journey toward the cross

I live in a very church-heavy part of the world.

Most of my friends here grew up going to church every Sunday and hearing Bible stories the rest of the week. When they hear me talk about my faith journey, they react with stunned amazement — as if I had just told them I was from Fiji. Or Atlantis. Or Alderaan.


The truth is, I may as well have been.

In my little world, the cross — which some have called "the centerpiece of human history" — was a complete unknown.

I mean, I had seen crucifixes, but I didn't know what they were about. I knew it was Jesus hanging on that cross, but I had no idea why he was there. And I'd heard words like "salvation," but they meant nothing to me. (Seriously, nothing. For those words, the English-to-Alderaan dictionary was blank.)

Until The Chronicles of Narnia, The Robe, and Jesus Christ Superstar.

(Some of you just recoiled in horror at the third item on that list. That's OK. This post is for you, too.)


The Chronicles of Narnia
C. S. Lewis
Friends and longtime readers know of my love for The Chronicles of Narnia, but may not know the backstory. I received the books as a twelfth birthday gift from my oldest brother, and promptly devoured them.

For a sixth grader with an interest in Greek mythology and a difficult home life, the stories of children escaping to another world and having adventures and conversations with mythical creatures were pitch-perfect.

The crucial plot points, the symbols that seem so obvious to Christians — Aslan's substituting himself for Edmund, then submitting to death at the hands of the enemy, and coming back to life — were not at all obvious to me.

And in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, where Aslan tells the children he exists in their world too, though he goes by a different name, well... when I read that, it stopped me in my tracks. I put the book down, and through tears I begged Aslan to show me who he was. I wouldn't have called it "praying" back then, but now I can't see it as anything else.


The Robe
Lloyd C. Douglas
When I was a high school sophomore, I found this novel in my English teacher's in-class lending library.

The question on the cover drew me in: what happened to Christ's robe after the soldiers gambled for it? I didn't know the story, so even the premise was new to me. And the book begins with a 15-year-old girl, which is exactly what I was at the time.

I re-read the book a few years later, after becoming a Christian, and saw the story in a whole new light. Reading about Marcellus and his journey to faith made much more sense after my own decision to follow Christ.


Jesus Christ Superstar
Tim Rice & Andrew Lloyd Webber
I first heard this "rock opera" at my friend Jenny's house when I was 11 or 12. It's the first time I can remember hearing the story of the life and death of Jesus. There were several points Jenny had to explain. It was all very new to me.

A year or two later, my brother gave me a copy of the musical for Christmas and I nearly wore out the grooves. During my freshman year of high school, a local theater company performed it onstage, and I went to see it multiple times. (I may or may not have developed a crush on a couple of the actors.)

The music and the drama drew me in, but the story captivated me... even after the crushes wore off.


If there's a point in all this self-indulgent backstory, it's this: God uses some pretty surprising methods to speak to us. And I'm not just talking about books and music.

The school I borrowed The Robe from was a public high school.

The brother who gave me The Chronicles of Narnia and Jesus Christ Superstar was vocally atheist.

The friend who introduced me to the parts of the gospel story found in Jesus Christ Superstar also introduced me to weed.

None of them intended their words and actions to move me toward the cross.

But God had other plans.


1 comment:

  1. I was in my mid-teens when I found Christ as well... it was shortly before I left for college.

    That story has never stopped pulling me in... even when I run, even when I try to reject it, I return to the gospels - the basics - and I cannot help but believe.


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