"It does sometimes seem a shame that Noah and his party did not miss the boat," quips Mark Twain as his sharp tongue aims at the heart of humanity. My favorite thing that Mark Twain satirically advocated, however, was to bring home missionaries from China. He wanted them to "sivilize" Southern white men who had sworn allegiance to the Ku Klux Klan. "You (missionaries) convert roughly one Chinaman per missionary per annum. That is an uphill fight against 33,000 pagans born every day." At such moments, Twain makes me think about Jesus.
But he isn't the only one. In fact, reading led me to Christ. I did not have a conversion experience. No drugs or alcohol sank me to rock bottom. I had no one mentor to lead me to church and ultimately to Christ. The Lord did not call me in a dream or speak in my ear. My faith in Jesus grew over time. I don't think I ever didn't believe in God. From the time I was born, I was brought up in the Protestant church, and while various of my family members traveled far and wide on spiritual journeys, I never did. But I read. I read a great deal.
After a short stint working in radio, I became a teacher and a writer. Soon the books I taught my students began to take hold of me—books I'd known since the time I was in high school were now my own personal Bible of sorts. I taught John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath and found that I looked forward to it almost as much as my students loathed it. Reading a book of 500-plus pages is usually not an event anticipated with glee. But as a teacher, I did find joy in it, and what's more, I found God in it.
Steinbeck, who was not known for devout Christian faith, wrote about it all the time. In The Grapes of Wrath, the secondary character, Jim Casy ...1