Anna McGahan is an Australian actress, best known for her work in Underbelly, Picnic at Hanging Rock and 100 Bloody Acres. She’s also the author of a newly released book, Metanoia. She recently spoke to Eternity about wrestling her journey onto the pages of her new book, Metanoia.
Why is the book entitled Metanoia?
‘Metanoia’ is Greek for a transformational change of heart or a repentance. I thought it was an incredibly powerful, dynamic word to describe what I experienced when I had what was essentially a conversion experience and was reconciled to my body at the same time I was reconciled to God.
Tell us about the journey you go on in the book regarding your body?
I follow my body’s journey from the idea of [being] a marketplace – that is bought and sold, is merchandise, is used, or dominated or enslaved or injured, for the sake of others’ gain – to transforming into a sanctuary or temple, and other incarnations like a hearth or tent or bride. From having no worth, to being of extraordinary, priceless value.
‘Metanoia’ is Greek for a transformational change of heart or a repentance.
How did feeling like your body had ‘no worth’ affect your life?
Being in my own body and presenting it or injecting it or hating it … one word for it is ‘disembodied’. It’s a horrible feeling to be inside your body and trying to stretch out of it or diminish it. Or trying to throw it up against things to see if it’ll stick, if it makes sense.
The very act of reconciling with and looking at it [my body] through a lens of forgiveness, care, love, and of rejoicing in what that relationship can be – not as an objectified ‘thing’ but actually going, ‘Who are you and what do you want, what do you need?’ – that healed me in many other ways.
It wasn’t just a physical healing. It went very deep into my heart and soul. And it was paralleled with a spiritual experience of doing the same thing with God.
It wasn’t just a physical healing. It went very deep into my heart and soul.
What did you need to be healed from?
There was a lot I needed to be healed from internally and externally. I came home to myself, in many ways, and took my body back into a safe and sacred and secret place and went, ‘Right, who are you? I know that you’re mine and I accept you’.
I had an eating disorder for ten years that was healed. A relationship to sexuality and sexual expression that clarified and resolved and became conviction. I was able to see clearly what drug use did to my body and what an act of worship it could be to share a meal with somebody else, rather than a burden or something to be anxious about.
That’s a very simplified way of describing what was a huge arc. I felt like the work God did in my heart could almost be tracked through how he transformed my relationship to my body. To me, it [the body] is a beautiful lens to tell a very multi-faceted story through because I feel like my body bears my testimony.
When you met Jesus, he was not at all like you expected, was he?
I expected to meet a Jesus that was on the side of Christians and of the people that I, at that time, didn’t identify with. When I first read the Bible – it was a Gideon Bible that I knew would be in the drawer of the hotel room I was staying in – I read it to convince myself that it wasn’t true.
I was so rejected and broken and this person [of Jesus] just disarmed me, because it was so personal. As soon as I started to read it, I was like, ‘Well, this is the story I know I believe’. This person sort of came out of the page and was on my side and was my friend. I felt this deep alliance from him and acceptance like, “Everything that you are – the entire mess that you are – exactly as you are right now, I am with you. I don’t care for religiosity, I do not care for hypocrites.” I felt like I had an ally in Jesus when I didn’t have anybody on my side.
I felt like I had an ally in Jesus when I didn’t have anybody on my side.
What do you want people to take away from the book?
I’ve tried to tell this story using the tools that resonate most to me. I always wanted this to have the fullness of what a true adventure feels like. Of big characters and a broken but searching protagonist trying to find what her truth is.
It’s not intended as a proselytising text. It’s not intended to persuade and convince the reader they should believe what I believe. But what I can promise is it’s honest and raw. I haven’t exaggerated – even though some things are extreme in the book – my behaviour or the spiritual world or the spiritual interactions, or the things that happened to me. I’ve tried to lay it as bare and honest as I can.
I don’t want to take up the space of the narrative of anybody else who has a different story. This is not a criticism on anyone. It’s a heartfelt offering of one person’s experience.
What would break my heart is if somebody read this text and used it [to prescribe] a ‘normal’ Christian experience. This isn’t a weapon, nor intended to be a political statement, though I understand I touch on some things that are controversial. It has theological resonance. It might have political ramifications.
All I wanted to do was express, ‘This is a narrative that exists in our world’ and take up that space – not be silent or invisible about it. But I don’t want to take up the space of the narrative of anybody else who has a different story. This is not a criticism on anyone. It’s a heartfelt offering of one person’s experience.
My giving of it is not to state some sort of absolute exclusive truth but rather to share something I hope can resonate, particularly with people that have questions or similar experiences or disconnections – with their bodies or with God.
Metanoia by Anna McGahan. $24.99 RRP. Published by Acorn Press, an imprint of Bible Society Australia. Available at all leading booksellers.
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