I sent this letter to Anne Rice in 2009. She has since posted it on her website.
Forgive my informality, but I feel l must call you Anne because of the intimacy you have shared with me for fifteen years. During those years you walked with me through your books on my own journey away from and back to God. I almost don’t know where to begin except with the inadequate words, thank you. Perhaps I’ll mimic your style alluding to the present then offer explanation from my past. I’ve just finished reading Called Out of Darkness – this book being the
capstone on all your other books I’ve read.
I thank you for sharing you most intimate thoughts and struggles as you walked through the doors in your life. I feel I have walked a parallel path, growing up with a God-focused yet in a very conservative protestant world. I too spent much of my youth in the church. I grew up in an environment of rules and traditions that were binding and restrictive. Of course as a child, I didn’t understand the impossibility of satisfying the legalistic demands placed on myself and those around me. I simply viewed this world as reality and as the manifestation of the will of God. Yet, even in this world, my intuition suggested that there was more, something I was missing, something more beautiful and mysterious. Nevertheless, as a young man in seminary, my trust in the legality of God’s law was at its height. This manifested in what you allude to throughout your book – judgment and accusation which I later learned were simply motivated by simple and ugly pride. When my own church family, those in whom I found my identity, turned against me with threats of excommunication for the “false doctrine” I was preaching, my mind began to change. I started seeing the ugliness and arrogance behind the seemingly glossy facade of my church.
In His matchless grace and wisdom, God directed me into the US military. This experience led me into foreign countries and cultures and introduced me to new ways of thinking. During this time I read Interview With the Vampire and over the years the rest of the books you’ve written (with a couple of exceptions). To make this story shorter, life led me into atheism. My faith, once based on an image of a demanding God of legal judgment, crumbled in the midst of the influences of science and my involvement with real people living in a real world. Yet, like you, even in this world of atheism that inner voice of intuition continued to demand my attention. This voice would wax and wane in volume, but it was always there questioning my present worldview. Throughout these years Lestat’s struggle (which was in fact yours) resonated with me and was my frequent companion.
For me, I knew that God’s existence could not be proven in the scientific sense. Further, I knew that believing in God must be based on an irrational choice. I grew to understand that in order to believe in God, one must accept that such belief could not be conjured by one’s own efforts. The nature of faith is such that we humans are unable to create it. We can get close. The creation thunders the existence of God, but it is not conclusive. Objections can be made. One’s own intuition and conscience points one in the direction of God, but it, as well, is not complete. A gap between belief and unbelief exists that cannot be crossed by human effort. No human can build a bridge big enough or strong enough to span this divide. This realization defeated me. On one hand, I knew that faith is based on an irrational decision that enables one to cross this gap. On the other hand, I knew I didn’t have the capacity to convincingly and completely make such an illogical choice. I felt hopeless and alone. I remained in this state for two years …in pain.
Then one normal day, I introspectively sensed the tiniest drop of faith within me. This part is difficult to describe. But it seemed that in the darkness within me a near microscopic fracture occurred. And through this crack one solitary beam of weak light shone. It illuminated so little and barely changed the hue of the darkness, but I felt its warmth. This light brought with it hope. A hope, like a long lost friend, that I didn’t recognize at first, but as it got closer I remembered that I’d once known it. And with this small hope, the re-birth of joy.
In this unearthly moment I realized, as if in an epiphany, that I was absolutely correct in my understanding of faith, but that I was missing the key element. No matter how much effort I put into it, there was no way for me to bridge the gap to faith. Yet, what I had missed for so long was that God never expected me to bridge the gap myself. Rather it was like God was telling me, “I know that you cannot create your own faith. You are not the Creator. I Am. Therefore, I create faith in you so that I can be glorified.” It was God who caused the fracture in my soul. It was God who broke into my prison to rescue me. He saw me trapped and He came for me. Since then His fracture has expanded and increased in size so that more of His light illumines my dark soul and his faith and love floods into me creating something new and beautiful. It is by grace that we have been saved through faith, and this is not from ourselves, but by the grace of God (Ephesians 2). My experience added to this to say that while salvation comes through faith, the faith itself also comes from God and is another form of his grace. What a marvelous realization! Not only can I not claim my salvation as my own work. I cannot even claim my own faith! All rescue, all salvation is the direct result of God’s personal attention to and action on my individual and seemingly inconsequential soul.
This is my story (abbreviated here though it be) and I share it with you because you shared yours’ with me. Legalism attempts to discover, protect and preserve truth in an unchanging form – a system that focuses on a destination as its goal. Legalism’s destination is a sure and complete knowledge of truth and the will of God. In unperceived personal heresy, the Legalist arrogantly claims to know and be the caretaker of the correct and full interpretation of God’s will and Word. When I use the term God’s Word I mean the essence that includes Scripture, but also God’s force that brought everything into existence and sustains it (the logos, Christ). I could go on and on about the Word of God, but I’ll not here. My point in saying this is that God is anything but easily described. He is the mystery of mysteries. He manifests himself in myriad ways according to his will and is doing so through you.
With your Christ the Lord series, I believe God is using you as an instrument (St. Francis) of His Word. “And the Word became flesh…” This is what you are doing through this series – making the ephemeral spirit into comprehensible flesh. I thank you for painting such a believable picture of our Lord. Though unknowingly, you have participated as co-worker with God to increase His light shining in my soul. From Lestat’s questions, I learned the inherent value of the search even when it feels hopeless. From Maharet, I learned that a love of family and community can keep one sane. And from your picture of Yeshua I see the man I could never envision. I thank you for your commitment to write only for and about Christ and I encourage you in this. You are having a powerful effect.
Through God’s direct and personal efforts in my life and yours He has ever so patiently led us back to Himself. I thank God for the path that he has led you on and pray that he continues to transform you into ever-increasing beauty. Write on.
With immeasurable gratefulness and renewed hope,