One of the most difficult aspects of a conversion, whether in the sense of entering the Church from without, or a “re-conversion” of one’s heart, is the sense that time has been wasted. It’s easy for us to look back at the time that we spent out in the world, going through the motions, or even practicing in an incomplete way, as utterly useless, an opportunity squandered.
This often leads to anger, I’ve observed. We become angry at ourselves for failing to have it all figured out right away, and even angrier at those who were around us, who taught us or let us believe less than the fullness on offer within the church. I even have a friend who described a feeling of frustration with God for allowing them to “wander outside” for so long.
These feelings are certainly understandable, and yet I think they reveal a certain (though certainly not unique) shortsightedness. These frustrations are, in a way, healthy. It is good to prefer the fullness of what God offers us rather than some half-measure. But we must be careful not to get so wrapped up in our preferences and pride that we miss the way God has worked in our lives.
I once came across a phrase written by the great Flannery O’Connor which describes the Christian worldview quite well, in my opinion. It goes like this: “I can, with one eye squinted, take it all as a blessing”.
I think that this is deep wisdom, especially for those of us frustrated by our pasts away from God. It reveals a better understanding of how God acts in us, and how His grace works.
Consider the prodigal son. At the end of his time away from home he finds himself hollow, sad, and hungry. He recognizes the depth of his sin and his unworthiness of a place in his father’s house. This itself is grace. We as Christians pray constantly for the ability to discern the good from the bad, and to desire the good that God wants to give us. But he gives us that gift, in many cases, before we even know to ask! What a generous God.
So too for the convert or revert. Rather than growing bitter in our frustration that we were allowed to wander in the wilderness, we can marvel at the fact that God was pursuing us, in imperceptible ways, even in the midst of our wandering. The parents who taught us some form of faith, the friends who inspired us to ask deeper questions, the sense that there was something more: these were all God pursuing us, leading us home to Him. This is why He’s ready to greet us when we arrive.
So give thanks that you are home, if you’re home. It is better that you are here than anywhere else. But remember to give thanks for the ways God brought you here, as well. Consciousness of this will improve our relationship with him, and inspire us to be his tool to draw others to himself as well.
Andy Brandt is a Staff Editor, Producer, and General Ne’er-do-well at Konza Catholic.