How I Came to Care About Nonviolence

My road to nonviolence was inevitable, I suppose. Growing up, a few key moments startled me into an awareness of cruelty at work in the world. These moments of cruelty, each directed at me, caused me to bolt upright and pay attention. Each time, I grew wiser.

I learned to hide myself. And I began to live with as great a degree of perfection as I could muster. Perfection, I thought, would save me.

But when I was 19, I had a second conversion. I'd been following Jesus my whole life, but this was a moment of reckoning. I realized my performance-driven life had kept me from deep communion with Jesus.

I didn't understand my need for him. I thought I could handle things well on my own. And so I prayed for God to show me my need for the Christ who offered a grace I didn't believe I needed.

It turned out to be a journey into love.

God's love for me, I learned, was limitless. I didn't have to perform. Every idiosyncrasy and frailty, every unique feature and strength ... all of those were welcome here, safe in the all-encompassing arms of God.

Slowly, I unlearned my dependence on perfection. I learned to breathe, and to laugh, and to take heart that Christ's grace was lavish and large enough to cover my imperfections.

And then, I began to see more.

I saw others performing and straining to get by. I saw many with downcast eyes, trying to hide from harm's way. I ached for them to rest in their loveliness and worth. I longed for them to find their voices and step into the light. This became an intentional place of ministry.

And then my journey turned another corner.

In October 2008, I encountered a radical new idea. It was the idea that love can transform violence. In fact, I was told it was the only force powerful enough to do that work.

I had seen the healing effects of love in my own life. As I shared above, a real encounter with God's love had set me free. But this new idea was presented in the context of social change. Many believed love could transform violence on a systemic scale.

I wasn't quite sure about that.

But the idea completely gripped me. I could not escape its grasp. Perhaps because of my personal journey, I found myself puzzling over this idea for days and then months at a time.

I decided I needed to learn more.

For an entire year, I apprenticed myself to the journey. I read books. I journalled. I cried a whole lot. I wrote letters. I repented.

And at the end of it all, I realized I still had a long way to go.

The truth is, it will take a lifetime for God to form in me a wholly nonviolent heart. But I'm here. And I'm willing to be formed, even though it is not easy.

My life is completely changed, and I cannot go back now.