The New Testament authors often write about the shocking nature of conversion. Luke recounts the transformation of the persecutor Saul into Paul, who was persecuted for preaching Christ. Paul himself writes about his encounter with the risen Christ (Galatians 1:11–16). And Peter poetically describes conversion as being called “out of darkness and into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9 HCSB). Conversion is life-changing; you are putting aside your former self-centered and sinful ways in exchange for the righteousness of Christ.
I love hearing stories of conversion because they highlight the life-changing power of Christ. And one of the most memorable and challenging conversion stories I have heard is of Rosaria Butterfield. In her book The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, Rosaria describes how Christ pursued and wooed her for many years, all while she was a lesbian professor of Queer Studies at Syracuse.
In the 1990s Rosaria was conducting research on a book about the atrocities of the Religious Right. After being challenged on her historical materialistic worldview by a local pastor, she began reading and studying the Bible. The local pastor also reached out to her in friendship: inviting her over for dinner, discussing all her questions, challenging her presuppositions, and genuinely caring for her. Throughout this journey, her prejudices and preconceived notions about Christ, Christianity, and Christians were torn down one after another. Through the hospitality and unconditional love shown to Rosaria by the local pastor and his church, her heart was softened and prepared to embrace the Gospel.
My favorite aspect of this book is Rosaria’s insight into her thinking. She lets the reader into her mind, letting you know her inner turmoil and struggle as God sought her and worked on her. She frequently notes that she knew that following Christ meant changing her entire life and identity; she counted the cost and found Christ worth it.
Over time, Rosaria’s research ceased; now she was going to church and reading the Bible for her own personal gain. At the start of a new semester, she gave a watershed lecture, stating how her new Christian hermeneutics would now affect her life as a scholar. Throughout the rest of the book, she describes her journey from Syracuse to the Christian liberal arts school Geneva College to her present-day role as a pastor’s wife and mother of four adopted children.
The book is a raw, emotional, and beautifully honest memoir of conversion, and one that I would recommend to all Christians. It will encourage you by showing the redeeming and restoring power of Christ, as well as highlighting the impact love and hospitality has on unbelievers.
- Title: The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert
- Author: Rosaria Butterfield
- Publisher: Crown & Covenant Publications (2012)
- Format: Kindle eBook
- My Rating: 5/5