After so many years of school – and now, as an academic – I find that September, rather than January, has the ‘new year’ feel about it. This September (2014) has a particularly keen quality of ‘looking back and looking forward’ as the new version of my memoir appears. This edition of Not God’s Type, now from Ignatius Press, even has a new sub-title, “An Atheist Academic Lays Down Her Arms.” It’s not just slightly updated, but thoroughly re-written. It’s not often that an author gets the opportunity to treat a published book as a ‘rough draft’, and revise it to a final, polished version!
I’ve added new material in the first part of the book, to give a fuller account of the way my childhood and young adult experiences shaped my response to faith. I’ve also added three new chapters at the end that tell the story of how it was that I became a Catholic. I wanted, too, to share more about the significance of books and the imagination in my life, something that was only hinted at in the first version.
But my revision was more than just the adding of new content. As I wrote, I realized that while the events that I recounted hadn’t changed, my understanding of them had changed. As I write in the first chapter:
… the meaning of my journey to faith has unfolded further as time has gone on. I have come to see aspects of my experiences that I did not notice and indeed could not have noticed at the time. I have begun to recognize the way that grace had been infusing my imagination for many years without my realizing it, like a river that ran deep below the surface of a desert, until one day, to the great surprise of the weary traveler, it bubbled to the surface, clear and sweet and cool.
It took time and patience to be able to ‘read’ my own story in such a way as to tell it more completely, more accurately, more truly. In my first telling, I had some false steps. I was determined to squeeze insight out of events, find the ‘moral of the story’ as it were, even where my own story wasn’t yet ripe for reflection. The result was that I sometimes expressed what I thought ought to be the meaning of my experiences – which turned out to be a shallower version of the real meaning that I had yet to discover.
And so perhaps the greatest change in the re-vision of my conversion story is a shift in perspective that could only happen with time and growth – one that illuminates everything in a new way:
Lastly, 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. It is an account of God’s work, a tale of grace acting in and through human beings but always issuing from Him and leading back to Him. And it is the story of my being brought home.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to bring this book from bud to flower, from sketch to full painting. For my readers, whoever they may be, I am hopeful that this looking-back into my life will, perhaps, help them see the light of grace shining in their own lives.
Holly is a poet, teacher, and apologist exploring the intersection of literature and faith, reason and imagination. Follow Dr. Ordway’s reflections on the practice of living a holy life at her website at http://www.hieropraxis.com.