I “Am” Not a Christian – Insight from Romano Guardini
The Lord (Week 13 of 23)
I “am” not a Christian; I am on the way to becoming one — if God will give me the strength. Christianity is nothing one can “have”; nor is it a platform from which to judge others. It is movement. I can become a Christian only as long as I am conscious of the possibility of falling away. The gravest danger is not failure of the will to accomplish a certain thing; with God’s help I can always pull myself together and begin again. The real danger is that of becoming within myself unchristian, and it is greatest when my will is most sure of itself. I have absolutely no guarantee that I shall be privileged to remain a follower of Christ save in the manner of beginning, of being en route, of becoming, trusting, hoping and praying.
The Lord, Part 4, Chapter XIII, last paragraph, emphasis mine
There’s something sexy about the “convert life” to those who have been raised Catholic.
Personally, I’ve always wondered why, but in the last year or two, I’ve found myself experiencing a similar sort of reaction.
I’ll sit and ask people for their conversion stories, and I’ll listen with bated breath.
What is it that makes us want to know others’ conversion stories?
And what is it that makes it so difficult to share?
Oh, I’ve gotten pretty good at a nutshell version of mine: I was a great sinner, I found a hole in my ego big enough to wiggle through, and from there, I accepted the authority of the Church.
Or, rather, I sort of accepted the authority of the Church.
Over the years, I’ve realized that the hardest part, for me, of sharing a conversion story is that it’s not a static moment in time. My conversion has been ongoing ever since I was baptized and confirmed on during that April evening in 2001.
Conversion is ongoing.
And, after years of “being” the convert in the room, I now find myself seeking that excitement in others, finding the bond that drew them in, relating with that which I do not want to forget myself.
“I ‘am’ not a Christian,” Guardini reminds us at the very end of our reading for today, “I am on the way to becoming one.”
It is a journey.
Every. Single. Day.
And some days, every. single. hour.
Following is a choice, but it’s also, as he also points out so astutely, a privilege.
It’s nothing we can earn. It’s nothing we can deserve.
Earlier in the reading today, Guardini makes this point:
[O]ur Christianity itself must constantly grow. The great revolution of faith is not a lump of reality fallen ready-made from heaven into our laps. It is a constant act of my individual heart and strength. I stand with all I am at the center of my faith, which means that I bring to it also those strands of my being which instinctively pull away from God. It is not as though I, the believer, stood on one side, on the other the fallen world. Actually faith must be realized within the reality of my being, with its full share of worldliness.
I am not better than the world because I am Christian. I am not above the world, nor am I saved from anything because I “believe.”
“Woe to me if I say: ‘I am a Christian’–possibly with a side-glance at others who in my opinion are not, or at an age that is not, or at a cultural tendency flowing in the opposite direction. Then my so-called Christianity threatens to become nothing but a religious form of self-affirmation,” Guardini writes.
And yes. Exactly the reminder I needed. And will need. And pray that I receive again and again.
Part 4: Ch. XIII-XIV; Part 5: Ch. I-II
1. What’s your story of conversion? We all have one! Spend time in prayer and consider how your conversion is ongoing.
2. This week’s reading also included a chapter about blessing. Was there anything that struck you as you read it?
Feel free to comment on anything from our assignment this past week!
For More Information on the Book Club: http://spiritualdirection.com/csd-book-club