Entering The Story of Christianity

So a rationalist and a mystic walk into a bar. Okay, it wasn’t a bar; they walked into a writing class.
That’s not the opening of a weird joke. It’s the way a life-changing bond was formed between two talented young writers whose personal journeys—told in the book “Love and Salt: A Spiritual Friendship Shared in Letters”—offer relevant, relatable and theologically-rich examples of growing in faith.
When Amy Andrews (the rationalist) and Jessica Mesman Griffith (the mystic) met in a writing course, they each had different religious experiences in their pasts. Griffith was raised Catholic in southern Louisiana and surrounded by the overt religious practices native to the region. When her mother developed a terminal illness, her parents defected to an evangelical church in search of a healing miracle that never came. Griffith’s father became vehemently anti-Catholic, so she grieved both the loss of her mother and the loss of her childhood faith. Yet the soulprints of Catholicism never left Griffith, so she returned to the Church when she got older.
Andrews grew up with an agnostic mother and atheist father, yet she always felt naturally drawn to God. And though her parents weren’t believers at the time (they’ve since converted), they held to a lot of the values of Christianity. Andrews was further attracted to God in college through her interest in literature and writing.  During an interview on “Christopher Closeup,” she told me, “I think God is everywhere, so of course I love reading theology, but it’s not like that’s the only place you can see God.”
Griffith had a similar experience, saying, “I was reading so widely at the time because I was in graduate school in a writing program. Reading theology and the Bible alongside all of these other great works of literature, all of it seemed to be pointing in the same direction—the Church.”
Following those literary lines, it was Andrews’ desire to enter into the “story” of Christianity that eventually led her to the Catholic Church. She said, “Part of it was getting married. I realized that you can’t know something 100 percent ahead of time; you have to do it. Then you have the transformation and knowledge that come from actually being married. With that example, I started to think about faith in the same way—that this was not a matter of knowing everything ahead of time; it was a matter of entering a story. And the story had become so beautiful, so true and so desirable to me that I thought, ‘This is as much as I’m going to be able to know from the outside. What I need to do now is enter the story and see what happens.’”
Re-embracing Catholicism’s rituals and traditions was also a boon for Griffith, especially on days when she didn’t feel connected to God. She said, “Going through the motions and rote prayer, these things were very helpful to me because on days when I could not come up with the language to talk to God, the words were there for me in beautiful, ancient prayers.”
When Andrews and Griffith met, they found an ideal, complementary friendship. Griffith agreed to be Andrew’s sponsor into the Catholic Church, and they decided to write daily letters to each other as a lenten discipline that could help them work out their beliefs on paper. And working out those beliefs became a true blessing when life’s troubles eventually arose. I’ll tell you about those next time.
For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, BUILDING SPIRITUAL FRIENDSHIPS, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: mail@christophers.org

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