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Today’s conversion story comes from Mike Wise. An Arizona singer/songwriter who hails from Denver, Colorado, Mike made the odd religious transition from Episcopalian Christianity into Agnosticism…and then back to Christianity.
I am a 33 year-old, high-functioning autistic adult living in Tucson, Arizona. I am an aspiring singer/songwriter. I have a day job working as a temp for the University of Arizona (Go Wildcats!).
I was raised in a moderate Christian home. I was saved when I was 12, baptized and confirmed Episcopalian, then slid into more fundamentalist Christianity after high school. I de-converted into agnosticism at age 22 and reconverted to Christianity 10 years later.
What led to your conversion?
The first conversion happened theologically. I began studying apologetics so that I might be more equipped to defend the faith, and the things I learned left me with huge amounts of doubt in my brain. Questions that I think many of us ask…regarding judgment and eternal torment. I became an agnostic at age 22, but that was further solidified the next year when I lost my brother to a car accident. He was only 26. He was an epileptic and wanted to be used to minister to other handicapped people. God seemed to have other plans, I guess.
The conversion back to Christianity is a bit harder to describe. I guess I finally got to a point where I realized that everything I was doing and saying regarding faith was out of anger. I had some good conversations with my wife and some close friends, read Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller, and one day finally decided to let it all go and give God another try.
What kind of impact did your conversion have on your friends and family?
The first “conversion” into agnosticism made me quite a cynic. I felt very jaded about most everything and some of that may have been grief as well. I also found myself getting angrier and angrier. It became harder to make friends, I was married and divorced to a woman within 2 years. It was just a bad time and — I don’t know if this makes any sense or not — but I didn’t really feel like myself.
Since coming back and finding a good holistic missional church to go to, I feel much more at peace. I still have many of the same doubts I used to have, but I trust in God to handle those things and to just focus on the work ahead of me. My anger has lessened and the joy of living has come back. I have had more control over fears and anxieties as well.
If that is not a testament to the saving grace of God then I don’t know what is.
What advice would you give someone going through the same experience or contemplating a similar conversion?
The best advice I can give is to be as honest with yourself as you can. I’ve been all over the spectrum of belief, and a lot of the choices I’ve made were based off emotion. I regret nothing — perhaps God allowed my time in doubt for a higher purpose. I’m not the type to lash out at non-believers because I understand what they are going through. I’ll talk to anyone about anything. You can tell me how much God sucks and I’ll listen with an open heart and do my best to share the good news anyway I can without forcing it. I might not be able to do that had I not been a skeptic myself.
If you are a Christian and you’re beginning to experience real doubt, it’s OK. You’re not a bad person, you don’t need to run from it. I believe God understands and will walk with you through whatever process you go through.
If you are a doubter and you’re thinking about giving God another try, be mindful of your expectations. God’s not
going to solve every one of your problems or take away all of your doubts just because you have come back. But if you come back with an open mind, I believe God will ease your unrest. It might not happen right away — you’ll need to hang through a bit — but it’s worth it. At least it was to me.
Thank you, Mike.
Previous conversion interviews: