Perhaps because I wasn't a suddenly reformed drug addict or a repentant marauder, my life didn't change all that much. If pressed, I would say that my temper became more muted. I ceased screaming every time the New York Mets lost a baseball game. (I just fumed.) The temptations to do the "wrong thing" were every bit as strong as before: My girlfriend didn't suddenly become less attractive. I still desperately wanted to move farther around the sexual bases. My room didn't suddenly become spotless and I didn't go out and serve the poor or sell all my possessions.
But God had grown. The God of my early youth had existed effortlessly but ethereally, more real than the Tooth Fairy, not quite as concrete as Santa Claus. Now, as high school was concluding, God had a face. God was Jesus and Jesus was God and while they were theologically one, Jesus made God approachable. God was infinite. Jesus was palpable. My occasional Bible reading focused much more on the Gospels and Paul's letters to the various churches than on the Psalms.
In the process I discovered that Jesus moved me. When I read his invitation, "Come to me all you who are weary and weighed down and I will give you rest. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light," it made me long, deeply long, for something I couldn't identify, a kind of supreme peace infinitely more intense than anything I had found behind the fence of my lake. I began to wonder if I had missed something in that picture of the doe-eyed Jesus carrying the lamb. Maybe those soft eyes belied the strong hands of a shepherd who'd rescued many lost lambs and given them perfect comfort and peace -- lambs like me.
I knew I had missed the most powerful part of that picture. While recuperating from life-threatening wounds during World War II, my father ended up in a hospital where a distant aunt was a doctor. As he recuperated, they went on walks together. He learned she was a Christian, and from time to time she took him to her small Episcopal church. Jesus made little sense to him. Jesus was totally foreign and he wanted nothing to do with him. Over time, though, Jesus intrigued him. He asked his aunt why she was a "foreign religion believer." She never gave a direct answer. Perhaps it was because she knew my father -- the fastest way to get him interested in something was to pique his curiosity. He began to think about this Jesus he had discovered. It occurred to him at the time that Jesus was the most selfless and unselfish man ever. My father liked that. Before leaving China on the eve of the communist takeover, he saw the silk-screened picture of Jesus holding a lamb. He began to walk away from it but couldn't. He emptied his pockets to buy it. Years later, after being baptized a Christian, he had it framed and gave it to my mother.
Throughout this, my political interest never faltered, never altered. I was still a liberal Democrat. In the fall of 1986 I ended up going to Tufts University to study law and international relations and politics. I was against the death penalty. I was in favor of programs that helped the poor. I supported international human rights and the United Nations. Upon my arrival in Boston I signed up for classes, joined the crew team, and volunteered for Joe Kennedy's first campaign for Congress.