I heard about Rosaria Champagne Butterfield two years ago when her book "The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert" first came out. If you see my copy, you would find frantic scribbles along the margins of way too many pages. My heart burns with a strange joy whenever I read her book.
Since then, I have slowly worked through the numerous videos of her lectures and conversations online (I know, I do feel slightly stalker-ish). Professor Butterfield has been a dear companion and teacher during my middle-of-the-night nursing hours. I have loved and admired many professors during my years in grad school and seminary, but I did not know how much I have longed for, and needed, a professor like her. By examining her own inner landscape, she has helped me see the rough terrains of my own heart.
The first few sentences from her "Acknowledgements" summarize her conversion with an elegance that I cannot capture with my own words,
When I was 28 years old, I boldly declared myself lesbian. I was at the finish of a PhD in English Literature and Cultural Studies... At the age of 36, I was one of the few tenured women at a large research university, a rising administrator, and a community activist. I had become one of the "tenured radicals." By all standards, I had made it. That same year, Christ claimed me for himself and the life that I had known and loved came to a humiliating end.Today, she is a a pastor's wife, a mother, a homeschool teacher, a foster parent, and an evangelist who tells her story across the nation (basically, a modestly dressed Wonder Woman). She would often emphasize that the Lord did not save her from homosexuality to heterosexuality, but from death to life. She would say that her repentance did not begin with her realization that lesbianism was a sin, but that pride was a sin.
Instead of typing out the countless quotes I circled and underlined in her book (because you can get your own copy), I thought it might be more helpful to share a few gems I found among her numerous Question and Answer sessions.
How she responded to the phrase "love the sinner and hate the sin."
It is so much easier to poke at other people's sin and not our own. I think that our job is to love the sinner, hate our own sin. I do not think our job is to "love the sinner and hate the sin." I think if we spent more time hating our own sin, we would just be more responsible with the lives of others. We need to be better keepers of the integrity of each other's hearts.
How she responded to the question "When did the yuck factor of lesbianism hit you upside the head?"
When I first repented of the sin of my lesbianism, I had no idea why it was a sin... I didn't stop feeling like a lesbian. Someone once asked me, in public, "When did the yuck factor of lesbianism hit you upside the head?" I had to say, "You know what? It didn't." What hit me upside the head were two things: God's authority over me and that in my sin, in a complex way that I do not understand, I was persecuting my Savior.
Over time, does healing take place? Absolutely. But I wasn't zapped. But I also wasn't in a church community where people expected me to be zapped. I was a believer and I was broken, and that is a really good place to be.
How she spoke about having compassion on someone who is in the throes of sin.
I don't think sin is always a matter of choice. In Genesis 4, God said to Cain, "Sin is lurking at your door, its desire is for you, but you will have mastery over it." A lot of people are going to walk home late tonight, and it is going to be dark, and you don't like the thought of having something lurking, knowing where you live, and knowing that you are alone... Even in the life of a believer, there are times when sin — just clobbers you — just takes you out.
I think we need to be tender, and realize that when someone is in the throes of sin...Your job is to hold on to their ankles as they peer over the cliff. So, sometimes, less talk, more prayer, more Gospel, more honest articulation of (our own) sin.
I wrote Secret Thoughts for my children... We adopted four children, and two children we adopted out of foster care at the age of 17... They have been through hell on earth. I really wanted them to have a book where they knew that I am not all cleaned up. I don't measure up, that's the point, Jesus has measured up for me.