Culture > Q&A

Journey of grace

"Journey of grace" Continued...

Issue: "Moneymaker," March 23, 2013

You and they became friends? Genuine friends. When I wouldn’t answer an email or didn’t show up, or they hadn’t heard from me in a month, Ken would come over, or Floy would drop off a loaf of bread. We had many things in common—Floy and I both love to bake bread, and we like the same literature, which was astounding. And because I was a researcher, I started to read the Bible.

What were you researching? I was working on a book on the religious right. I needed to read the book that had gotten all these well-meaning, good intentioned, but naïve and foolish, people off-track. And so I was doing that, was reading the Bible the way a glutton approaches a bag of Oreo cookies, and I needed some scholarly help. 

You read big chunks? That is part of my training, but some powerful things happen when you read the Bible many, many times in a year, from Genesis to Revelation, and in multiple translations. I really encourage Christians to do that, and not to read the Bible as though you’re reading your horoscope. I don’t think it’s really meant to be read like that. 

You read serious passages such as Romans 1:24-28, which may be the scariest part of Scripture to anyone suffering from sexual sin. How did that hit you? My friend Jay at that point was a transgendered woman—biologically male, but had taken enough female hormones to be what’s called chemically castrated. Jay followed me to the kitchen, put her large hand on my hand, and said, “Rosaria, something is changing you. This Bible reading is changing you, and you need to tell me what is going on with you, because I am worried, I am losing you.” I sat down and had that panic feeling you have when you’re not really sure if you’re going to throw up. I said, “I’m reading the Bible, reading it a lot, and what if it’s true? We are in big trouble if it’s true.” Jay sat down and said, “I know it’s true. I was a Presbyterian minister for 15 years. I prayed and God did not heal me, but if you want I will pray for you, and I have some books for you to read.” 

Which books? The next day I had two boxes of books overflowing. One book was a copy of Calvin’s Institutes. In the margins in Jay’s handwriting, right by the exegesis of Romans 1, is a note. I still have it today: It says, “Be careful, this is where you will fall.” Romans 1 of course, tells us that God will give some over to their lusts.

It made you start thinking about ... I was thinking, do I want to be changed? No. I like my life, I like my girlfriend, I like my house thank you very much, I even like my wonderful career. I am standing in the rushing water of the world. I have my toe in another world because of all that Bible reading. What will happen if I put my foot in, if I put my whole body in? I started reading commentaries, and those from my friend Jay, whose handwriting was in the margins, were like a flag on those icy ponds that you see in Syracuse: It looks like ice, but if you walk on it, you’ll fall through, now or later.

You started not going to church but parking across from it? Isn’t that terrible? I had my Starbucks coffee and my New York Times and maybe an article I was working on in my truck with the gay and lesbian bumper stickers on the back. I would park and watch these enormous families pour out of 15-person passenger vans. The kids just kept coming and coming and it was astounding.

When did you move from the parking lot into the church? I woke up one morning, emerged from a bed that I shared with a woman, got in my truck with my bumper stickers and my butch haircut, and showed up at the Reformed Presbyterian Church. What strikes me, looking back, is what this church had been doing: praying for me faithfully, faithfully. Ken was sharing with this church our friendship and our relationship, and the members were genuinely on their knees praying for me. It’s easier to simply be disgusted by a person like me, than pray for me. I also brought friends like Jay to church, and Jay had probably the best bass voice there—so, that’s an issue, right? The church went from being a cleaned-up homeschooling church to suddenly a church with ministry to a lot of broken people. 

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