I once went a place that I should not have been (well, I’ve been many places I should not have been, but this is just about this one), I went to the house of a man who had a small Pagan store in his home. I was there to purchase crystals, spells, runes and shit like that. I was reading tarot but never had my own reading, and so I was seeking a reading from his apprentice. I had not met this guy before. I pulled into his yard in the middle of a small town in Mississippi. I was wearing a tank top and shorts because it was hot. On my left shoulder I have a huge crucifix tattoo, and on the other shoulder, I have a purple crescent moon. The differences of original meaning of each tattoo was huge.
I opened the door of my silver minivan and got out of the car. He looked at me and greeted me with: what’s with the Jesus tattoo? Yeah, I notice tattoos a lot. I very much regret the words out of my mouth that day which were along the lines of oh, that? Back from when I said I was a Christian but now I know that Christianity, Jesus, and the Bible are bullshit. I think of that response now and relate to Peter denying Jesus in his passion. There is nothing that I can say that make those words okay, but thankfully, just as Jesus forgave and redeemed Peter, he did also for me.
The purple crescent moon tattoo was a celebration of my foray into witchcraft, as well as incorporating a favorite book series about vampires which would become hugely problematic for me personally but likely not for others. These days, if someone asks me about that tattoo, I tell them it’s a symbol of Christ’s redemption of my purposeful and deliberate embrace of evil I had long battled with and would battle with again.
I had deliberately turned away from Jesus and walked away, with both middle fingers in the air, telling him to go fuck himself because he and his story was full of shit. Not my brightest or proudest moment, but then again, several of my bad ideas have started by flipping birds or telling someone to fuck off. All of them have turned out very well in the end, which is lucky for me because I’m quite an asshole and don’t deserve the love shown me.
One thing that I’m often asked is, after all this, why am I hanging out with Jesus again and what brought me back? Coming back to Jesus was actually one of the furthest things from my mind, but I woke up one Sunday, after having not even attended church at all in three months and realized that I needed the Eucharist pretty damn badly. Here’s the thing about the Eucharist: once a person has received the body and blood of Christ, once they have experienced him in the sacrament, they are never quite the same, and this was me.
Several years earlier, I had walked into an Episcopal Church in Louisiana, about six months after shouting at the priest to fuck off and mind his own fucking business. See a pattern here? The priest was a gracious and kind man. I’d never been in an Episcopal Church before, and so I wasn’t sure if I was going to receive communion or not even though they told me that I could, because I had been baptized. In the end, someone asked if I wished to accompany them and they could be with me, and so I accepted.
I walked to the front and knelt at the altar next to this man. I put my hands out the way he did, and the priest put bread in my hands. I put the bread in my mouth and something I’d never felt jolted through my body, and I said to myself oh, shit, this is Jesus! The exact same thing happened with the wine, when the woman dressed in white put the chalice to my lips. I realized I’d consumed the blood of Christ.
In last Sunday’s Gospel reading, Jesus says “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.” John 6:56. Further along in the same passage Jesus is talking to the twelve disciples, those closest to him and says: “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God. John 6:67-69.
My answer on how I am still Christian after everything I went through in my life, after walking away to pursue evil, why am I committed to Jesus now, is that Jesus never stopped reaching out to me. His presence had always been there in my life, his mother had always been there, I just didn’t know them. But the day I received the Eucharist at that small Episcopal Church in a Louisiana city, Jesus came into my body and soul. It was one of many conversion moments in my life, and it was quite a significant one. When I woke up that morning realizing that I was hungry and needing Jesus, it was because, as Peter said, I have come to believe and to know Jesus, and there’s nowhere to go where I can escape his love or his presence.