I’ve been thinking a great deal about conversion lately, especially as we gathered over the holidays with friends and family. Time together gives many opportunities for conversations to be shared as we hear the ups and downs of each other’s year.
As a parent listening, I think often how much easier the path would be if my children turned to Christ for many of their life decisions. I pray for this and for their conversion because I have seen the gift that living in a relationship with Jesus has brought to me.
I live daily in the knowledge that His plan is far better than mine and so I let Him lead the way. But the reality is that that wasn’t always the case for me, and the truth is that it still isn’t. I may know what’s best and still struggle with doing it. That is why I have started praying more frequently for my own conversion.
There is a humility in recognizing that while we can pray for another’s conversion, we must recognize the continued need for our own. Oxford’s definition of conversion is interesting to me as it gives two choices.
The first describes a more active attempt at changing someone else’s belief: to convert. But the other definition, the one that I am contemplating more lately, is “the process of changing or causing something to change from one form to another.” This is the secret sauce for me as I recognize my need to be continually changed, formed, and re-created. Like precious metal being molded in a forge, we need the recognition, the humility, and hearts to see when we need to draw back to the Lord.
Sometimes I go back to my old teaching days. The new year is reminding me of the beginning of a school year where we set the rules with the class. The metaphor I always used with my students was one of tying shoelaces. We tie them pretty tightly in the beginning and as the days progress they loosen till we know what we need to hold us together.
Conversion is a process, not a one-time deal. I know my humanity, my weaknesses, and my own need to pray for the strength to always turn my life back to the Lord.
I like control and find myself frequently taking back the reins to control how I think things should go. Hint, that’s when things spiral out of control and I end up turning to God wondering why He is letting this all happen.
You see the cycle. Most likely we all have lived it. So, I begin again.
I share frequently with my kids now that they are getting older, many of the mistakes I made as a youth, young adult, and as an adult. Though hard and humbling, I share the regret, the embarrassment, the tears, the self-recrimination, and I do this because I know they have felt similar things as they strive for goodness.
Too often the Christian life is portrayed as one that once accepted forever brings contentment, joy and bliss. There is truth in that each is found in claiming that relationship with Jesus, but it is also necessary to remember that every good relationship becomes beautiful through sacrifice, selflessness and thinking more of the other than of ourselves.
I treasure the trust given to me when loved ones share their hearts. I have learned to lead with love instead of judgment or worry; to listen and to lift their joys, struggles, successes and failures to God.
I love lifting my friends and family, those I hold so close to my heart, in prayer. I pray for their needs, their wants and for them to feel the love of God calling them toward the best version of themselves. (If I find myself in love with them as they are now, imagine how more deeply a friendship can grow when united to God’s will for it.) And so, I pray for their conversion in whatever stage of faith they are in.
I am challenging myself to recognize my own need for constant conversion. I am striving to be honest with the Lord as to what I need, where I see myself in the good and the messy and inviting Him into that space.
I always try to begin and end the year with gratitude. I am proud that I’ve walked another year on this Earth. Each year I like this person I am becoming more and more and I think that is good. It is good to celebrate who we are becoming if who we are becoming is ever closer to whom we were created to be.
Article first appeared at The Catholic Times.