When I converted to Christianity at the age of 15, I assumed the faith with a passionate resolve. Despite the positive instruction from my pastor and others, I (for reasons I cannot explain) transformed into a fiery evangelist, launching Christianity at friends and strangers like salvos of religious artillery.
I believe that is partially why I grew so cold and bitter toward the faith once I discovered that my wife, Heather, became a Christian after the loss of our fourth unborn child.
It wasn’t fair how I treated her. It wasn’t fair how I projected my own fears, mistakes, regrets, and hatred upon her newly developed faith. I had become Saul of Tarsus, hunting down Christians wherever I could find them, and Heather would be my first spiritual martyr.
But Heather’s faith, despite my relentless assault, withstood and strengthened in the face of my siege.
This past with Christianity was part of the reason I recently developed a new immersion project called “The Disciple.” For one year, I wanted to slip into the mindset of a 1st century follower of Jesus and see this faith and lifestyle with fresh eyes.
However, when I asked for input from the Congregation on Facebook, I received a highly varied if not polarized reaction.
- Just do it!
- It feels phony.
- Who cares what others think.
- A year is too long.
- I’m interested in what you’ll discover.
- I can’t follow if you go on a Christian path.
These were just a few of the reactions…And I understand them all.
Project Conversion 2011 received a great deal of initial objection, doubt, and speculation, however most of the detractors were silenced once the journey began and I proved that not only could I pull off the concept, but that it could transform lives. I am walking proof of that outcome.
But now, in the face of these objections, I no longer have the same confidence I had in 2011. That isn’t to say I’m buckling to the opposition. What it means is that, as a result of Project Conversion itself, I have learned to value and consider multiple points of view and, when necessary, make a change of heart. That’s a hallmark of both leadership and maturity.
And so after some intense introspection following the input of the Congregation, and counsel from my wife, I’ve decided to cancel “The Disciple.”
What I discovered through this catharsis of inner debate was manifold and course-altering:
Project Conversion is Over:
Project Conversion was the greatest personal adventure of my life to date. It represents a complete 180 degree turn in my life and altered my entire sense of being. As one Congregation member pointed out, there was a personal purpose, one that involved a change of self, involved in that process. “The Disciple” does not bear those traits. I cannot nor will I live my life one year-long project after another. This isn’t a reality show.
Plotting a New Course:
When the Buddha left the Bodhi tree after having reached enlightenment, he graduated from the exclusive role of student/seeker to teacher/practitioner. In Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey, this is the stage of “Return with the Elixir.” Many of us will experience this stage in our lives. Graduation from school, completion of some training, returning from one’s travels. We endure the challenges of such tasks, obtain something of value, and return so society with a great boon.
Project Conversion was my great adventure and with it I gained two great boons: the art of immersion, and a deep love for the humanity behind all religions.
Now, I must return and share these boons with others, not find a new “great adventure” to occupy my time and resources.
The Student Becomes a Greater Student:
The closer we approach mastery, the more perfect a student we become. Only in the last few days did I truly understand what has happened. I caught glimpses of it in the early weeks of Project Conversion’s conclusion, but only now, under these new purifying flames, has the truth become clear. While I did not emerge from the baptismal pool of Project Conversion with a specific religion, I did walk away with a definite path.
I am an Immersionist.
But if you look at the blog since the beginning of the year, you see a random spattering of religious material with no rhyme, reason, or direction. I see now that what I am–at this moment–is a newborn on the Immersionist path.
I am again, a new convert.
This realization reminded me of my experience with Christianity, of how I took hold of the faith without regard for discipline or patience. What you are witnessing now is one who has discovered his own path, and one that he must pave with his own two hands through relatively uncharted territory.
A New Direction:
And so with that understanding, Project Conversion will take a new form. No more sporadic rambling, but a clear theme. Herein you will find posts on two distinct subjects:
- My growth in and teaching of the Immersionist path
- How this Immersionist path lends itself to the world of religion and interfaith peace
What this means is that every post will cover my day-to-day slip into the life and practice of the religious world around me in general, and the way of the Immersionist in particular. For example, the Islamic holy month of Ramadan is approaching. As an Immersionist, I will slip into the role of a practicing Muslim and observe Ramadan. The posts you read, therefore, will cover those two aspects: experiencing Ramadan and the methods I use as an Immersionist.
Although I am leaving the role of exclusive student and adopting that of practitioner, the adventure does not truly end, but only changes form. I’m exchanging the headline-grabbing moment and entering the epic minutia of everyday life. I hope you’ll join me.