Re-Writing My Life
When I revised my language, I took the opportunity to dig deeper, and discovered there was a common theme running through my whole story: the question of surrender. As an atheist becoming a Christian, and then as a Christian moving forward into the Catholic Church, I was faced with repeated calls to surrender my pride, to be obedient to God, to be humbled. And that's why I changed the subtitle of Not God's Type from "A Rational Academic Finds a Radical Faith" to "An Atheist Academic Lays Down Her Arms." Being willing to push on a weak spot, and to interrogate myself, as it were, led me to discover this theme of "laying down my arms," which turned out to be central to the book.
The events were the same: the way I understood them—and thus, how I described them—was what needed correction. Becoming Catholic taught me that the process of laying down my arms had not been finished, and made it possible for me to write, in the new version, that "this is not, at the heart of it, a story of what I was clever enough to do, but rather of what I was weak enough to have done to me and for me."
I've been truly delighted that readers and reviewers have told me that the revised version is well-written. Though I say so myself, I agree—or at least, I agree that it is better written than the first version! It is better because, in addition to being more experienced as a writer, I was more mature as a Christian and more able to interrogate my motives, challenge my emotional honesty, correct dodgy theological presuppositions, and deflate a few egotistic bubbles. I'm fairly sure that the second version still doesn't rise to the heights of poetry, but now I know through firsthand experience the truth (in principle) of Yeats' famous dictum: "Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric; out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry."
Holly Ordway is professor of English and director of the MA program in apologetics at Houston Baptist University.
Copyright © 2015 by the author or Christianity Today/Books & Culture magazine.
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