Charlotte Yonge's The Heir of Redclyffe sits, unread, on my shelf, one of the list of post-retirement must-reads. Not that I'm all that interested in the novel itself--it's third-rate, 19th century English fiction. Christian, too yet. What interests me about the novel is the fact that Abraham Kuyper dated his conversion to orthodox Christianity from the time he read it. Honestly, he did. "What my soul lived through at that time I have only later fully understood," he once wrote; "yet in that hour, from that very moment, I despised what I had formerly admired, and sought what I formerly held in no esteem."
There are as many conversion stories as there are conversions. None are totally alike, and I'm sure there is more to the Kuyper conversion than his once-upon-a-time picking up an obscure English novel. But for reasons known only to God, The Heir of Redclyffe, struck home to the heart like nothing else.
I once met a Jewish woman in Toronto, who told me she was converted to Christianity by the witness of Tammy Faye Bakker, the emotional wife of the fallen TV preacher, a woman known by the bleary tracks created by her tears through wildly overdone mascara. As this woman told me about Tammy Faye, she rolled her eyes as if it was impossible even for her to understand it. There's no logic to the Holy Spirit.
A man from Japan, a thug, a petty thief, was brought to Christ by listening to a Christian radio broadcast, the Back to God Hour, that happened to be on in his van, the vehicle he used to pull off his lousy heists. Middle of the night, it happened. I swear.
And yesterday I heard Lauren Winner, a bright and engaging speaker and writer, tell a chapel full of students that when she was a college student, her reading Jan Karon's Mitford novels were the key to bringing her to Jesus Christ, even though at the time she was devout and devoted, practicing her father's Jewish faith. Today she's not at all sure those novels are all that profound.
I think the Holy Spirit him or herself is a more than a little zany. I can about imagine a conversation between two--maybe three--members of the trinity. "Now check out young Billy down there--poor guy's in need of grace. What'll we use this time?"
Immediately spare hands go up to divine mouths as all three break out in a furtive chuckle.
This morning I'm thankful for Jan Karon and Charlotte Yonge, and Tammy Faye Bakker. This morning I'm thankful for a Holy Spirit who absolutely won't let our finest human minds determine just what it is exactly that leads others to Christ.
We can't guess. We can't know. All we can do is give thanks.