In November 2007, I began a 3-year long chase of the person I presumed to be ‘the one’. Of course, dear to me as he was and is, he wasn’t ‘the one’. ‘The one’ was actually my own imaginary creation which I had forced upon an unsuspecting real-life person, who in fact did not exist just for my sake. So, as time passed and I got increasingly dissatisfied with the disparity between daydream and reality, I kept looking back to that November, to try to remember why I was so enamoured in the first place. Happily, by contrast, I have heard married couples at church tell me how they thought they knew each other back to front before their wedding. But decades down the line, and they’re still learning. They look back and can’t believe how far they’ve come.
Together, these uses of the past, I think, help explain the importance of conversion stories. I think the first way is helpful because it was that beginning of the journey which made all the difference. It was then that all our past and future sins were dealt with. At that time, the eternal hand of God acted in History. (say that again to yourself-it’s ridiculously cool. Here is some space to try to deal with the mind-blowing potential of it
… okay, point made). We didn’t add anything to our salvation from that point onwards. And yet, the story of our conversion doesn’t end when we commit ourselves to God for the first time. We commit ourselves anew every day. And as time goes on, we are learning and growing, and- again, ridiculously amazingly- the story will never, ever end. It started before the world began, it made itself known in time, but we’re already seated in Heaven. The internet just does not have enough space to convey my awe at that. I guess it’s kind of like being on an escalator: we’re not making ourselves move, our destination is guaranteed, and yet we’re still making progress in the sense of growing more Christ-like.
Conversion stories are a risky business- potentially. We can get caught up in the drama, gravitate towards the most striking ‘before’ and ‘after’ shot, or worse of all, pat ourselves on the back for having such a good story to tell. But whether yours was a road-to-Damascus-strike-of-lightening-moment, or being raised as a Christian and slowly deciding that you believed it for yourself too, the input is the same. Us= 0%. God= 100%. The beauty is in the variety of conversion stories, not any hierarchy of them.
So yes, conversion stories do impose a bit of an arbitrary beginning and end point, we discern God’s hands in bits and pieces, when really He was behind so much more that we cannot even grasp, and we are sometimes wont to abuse them. But, I think as long as we see them as a patchwork rather than a long corridor of individual masterpieces with ourselves as the artists, then I think they are one of the most valuable extra-scriptural resources that we have to encourage each other. And with that, I hope I have justified sharing with you mine…