I was proud. (Yeah, I know, “was?”) So every time my Christian friend Mark brought up the J-word, I’d fire off a series of “well-how-do-you-explain-this?” questions, and he’d quickly change the subject.
But what Mark didn’t realize was that I was genuinely searching. Just not in ways he would recognize. Like reading Autobiography of a Yogi, which attempted, among other things, to validate its version of Hinduism by showing how Jesus-like it was.
For example, one venerated holy man showed “compassion” by allowing people to crawl into his tent and sniff his palms, which miraculously smelled like lotus blossoms. This, the author said, was analogous to Jesus healing people and raising them from the dead. “Uh, no,” I thought, “one of these things is not like the others.”
Interestingly, it was Autobiography that introduced me to Jesus. Halfway through, I bought a Bible (at a remote store where no one would recognize me) because I wanted to read everything Jesus had said, and not just the stuff my yogi friend selected. Jesus’s words were like nothing I’d ever encountered. My heart began to yearn. Almost two years passed. I scoured the writings of other religions and pondered them, but couldn’t shake the conviction that Jesus’s teachings and character were utterly unique.
Finally, I confessed to my atheist girlfriend that I thought I might be “turning into a Christian.” She was pretty sure it would blow over. But it didn’t (a few months later, she turned into one too).
Then one night at a café, one of Mark’s Jesus-y friends asked, “So, Mitch, how long have you been a believer?” Mark cringed and started to warn him, “Oh, no, Mitch isn’t a—”
“About two weeks,” I answered.
I can still see the food falling out of Mark’s mouth. He’d long ago stopped trying to tell me about Jesus—but had never stop praying for me. He shouted, “Now I know there’s a God! You’re the last person on earth I thought would believe! How?”
I told him about my secret journey, and concluded, “I may have been miles away and knocking on all the wrong doors, but at least I was looking. So, in a way, I was closer than the guy who’s at the right house, but asleep on the front porch.”
Two years later, a musician friend named Keith Green released a song called “Asleep in the Light,” and I immediately thought about my convoluted conversion. I still choke up when I hear the song.
Are there people you know who are “asleep in the light”? Or “awake in the dark,” for that matter? Which of them is closer? Only God knows. So your best bet is to keep loving them all.
And never stop praying for them.