That is so, so gratifying to hear. From How Dante Can Save Your Life:

In a real sense, my sister, and the love she lived and shared with the world, gave us our church. She could not give me the love I wanted, nor could she receive the love I wanted to give. But because Ruthie lived and died radiant with love, she was able to give me priceless gifts.

She gave me the gift of homecoming. She gave me the gift of a church. And she (and others in the family) shattered my illusions and gave me the gift of exiling me into a dark wood.

It was indeed a gift. Had it not been for my fortunate fall, I never would have prayed like I did, and I never would have made my prideful self so vulnerable to Father Matthew. I never would have humbled myself enough to sit down on Mike Holmes’s therapy couch. I never would have read past the first tercet in the Commedia and never would have experienced the power of great art to change one’s life.

Without those things, I would still be in exile from God the Father, who was there all along, though I could not and would not let him see me. “You came home expecting to find something else, but what you really found was God,” Julie told me.

As I said repeatedly to Father Matthew as we walked side by side, heart to heart, on this journey, I never would have chosen this pilgrimage had I known how hard it would be. But I am so thankful for it, because it has taken me closer to God the Father than I have ever been. This brokenness has been a gift and a mercy.

Dante taught me to embrace my broken heart, and all the pain of it, and not only to bear the pain but to let the love of God transform that pain into the source of new life. It had all been theory before, but circumstances made it real. Like the real-life poet Dante, I had done everything right, but still ended up in miserable exile — and I couldn’t see past the panther blocking my path to freedom and wholeness.

An old friend, an Evangelical who lives in suburban Dallas, and who has lived through more tragedy, betrayal, and suffering than most people ever will see, wrote me last night from the depths of How Dante to say:

So far, I want the ENTIRE PROTESTANT CHURCH to read this. Oh, my lands, THIS is…Rod, the church isn’t teaching this and people are going to hell because they are buying into the “grace cloud”, and they are living in hell  because they don’t know salvation is as here and now as it is then and there. Holiness is not about performance. It’s about wholeness. We are killing ourselves trying to fill this emptiness inside us, and the answer is holiness, not because of what the rules do, because that is where love leads us. In loving God, our love leads us to holy living, which is oneness with Him. Oh, Rod, if only people would cling to this like we cling to our rights to “live in grace”…

That rocked me. I can assure my friend that there are any number of Catholics and Orthodox Christians who need to encounter the life-giving truths in The Divine Comedy as much as any Protestant. We Americans are all so used to thinking that the Christian life is about following the rules so we can be rewarded one day by being allowed into heaven. Maybe we know better, but we don’t live that way. I knew better, but I didn’t live that way, until I received my wake-up call in the pages of this medieval poem, full of grace.

tinyhowdanteHow Dante Can Save Your Life is not a Catholic book, an Orthodox book, or a Protestant book. It is a Christian book, primarily, but also a book for the “spiritual but not religious” seeker who thinks he knows all there is to know about Christianity, and has rejected it. Dante invites a second look, for believers and unbelievers both. There is a depth of Christian knowledge, experience, and tradition that goes far, far beyond what most of us encounter in our ordinary experience. Dante’s great poem, his cathedral in verse written in the 14th century, opened my eyes, and transformed my heart.

If you have read How Dante Can Save Your Life, I would appreciate hearing from you in the comments section of this thread. Please be honest. I have written this book with a mission in mind: helping people who are in the same bad place that I was in when I found Dante — or rather, Dante found me, because I don’t believe in chance. If I have succeeded, please tell me about it, because it will make me grateful, and it will encourage others to open themselves to the wisdom of Dante. If I have failed, I want to know about that too, because I’m going to be doing a lot of talking about Dante in the near future, and I want to make up in my talks what I missed in my book.