Someone just asked me on Twitter about my favorite book that I read this year. I didn’t even have to think about it because there was one book that for me was head and shoulders above anything else that I’ve seen all year. The book actually came out in 2012, but I didn’t read it until this past April. It’s The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield.
The book is a memoir of Butterfield’s conversion to Christ. Her story is by all accounts a traumatic one. She was a tenured faculty member at Syracuse University, and she was a lesbian who specialized in feminist studies. In other words, she was at the epicenter of an academic culture that is dead-set against all that Christianity is and stands for. But then God saved her, and her story becomes a living testimony to God’s ability to save to the uttermost.
Why do I love this book? Let me count the ways:
1. It shows that no one is beyond the reach of God’s grace. “The Lord’s arm is not too short to save” (Isaiah 59:1). We ought to expect the unexpected and believe that God can still do beyond what we dare let ourselves imagine.
2. It shows that that God still uses the foolishness of preaching to accomplish His purposes (1 Cor. 1:21). There was nothing clever or sophisticated that won her to Christ. It was the ordinary and consistent witness of Christians. The Christians in her life gave her love, hospitality, friendship, and the gospel. And God saved her. Do we expect God to do the same with our witness?
3. It blows up the caricature that Christians somehow “hate” gay people. The couple that reached out to Butterfield loved her. They really loved her and they never budged an inch about the truth of scripture and about what repentance would require for her. They were a living parable of what Paul tells us about love; love always rejoices in the truth (1 Cor. 13:6).
4. It highlights the key role that the local church plays in evangelism and discipleship. The folks who brought the gospel to Butterfield were part of a small church. The culture of that church mixed with the culture of Butterfield like oil and water. Nevertheless, the folks in the church reached out to her and loved her (and her friends!), even when they didn’t know what they were doing. It was a bumpy ride at times. But this story shows how the Lord works through us in spite of our imperfections.
5. It speaks honestly about homosexuality and gives Christians a glimpse into the realities of that particular struggle. Christians would do well to try and understand the struggles that many of their brothers and sisters have with same-sex attraction. Some of these dear folks experience complete freedom from that struggle after conversion. But many others do not. It’s an ongoing struggle, and we do well to understand the nature of their fight as best we can so that we can love and encourage them accordingly.
6. It shows us what good writing looks like. Butterfield is a gifted writer, and this book is a bona fide good read. I wish that I could write half as good as Butterfield does. I hope that Secret Thoughts is the first of many books that we get from her.
I could go on and on about this book, but I’ll leave it there for now. If you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend it. It was the best I read this year.