Sunday, June 2, 2013

Scott Woltze's Conversion Story, part 4 of 7: A Sudden Conversion

An Experience of Divine Love

And now for my experience of God’s love.  It was an April morning in 2007, and I had just begun to mow my lawn.  I had finished grading final exams the night before to close out the regular school year, and I looked forward to a summer full of milestones.  I would be teaching my first class at the university as the sole instructor, and I was excited that the only other work I had was my doctoral dissertation.  But my heart was troubled.  Through typical selfishness I’d begun to spoil my friendship with the young woman who had invited me to church.  I was frustrated and even disgusted with myself because she needed real friendship.  She had had six different stepfathers growing up, her brother was dying of muscular dystrophy, and she had known plenty of lousy men.  So I kept saying to myself, “What is wrong with you?! Are you ever going to learn?  You’re 33, grow up!”  I’d often had that conversation with myself in the past; hating how I treated people and who I was becoming.  But this time really was different.  Before I had been like St. Augustine: “O’ Lord, help me to be pure, but not just yet.”  But this time I was of one mind. 

Blessed Fra Angelico's "Conversion of St. Augustine"

I had been through twelve years of non-stop dating; where relationships would end once the magic ended.  In other words, once the romance and sex began to fizzle.  The mystery and beauty of women had been my great idol, and like all idols, it was a god that failed.  All that was ever left after a break-up was loss, frustration, and an even deeper loneliness.  But now I only sought what was good for the young woman and I committed myself to a new path.

But God had had enough of my plans—plans that were always self-contained and relied on my own resources, my own designs and my own upside-down worldview.  But He honored my spirit of repentance, and so from this episode full of ugly habits God brought forth His beauty, His purity and His mercy.  As I turned a corner with the lawnmower, all of a sudden, my whole person resounded with a divine intervention.  A calm voice displaced all other thoughts and sensations, and, presented fully and clearly on my mind, the voice said,

“I love you, and I forgive you.”

As the words concluded, an immense love that I had never thought possible ignited in my chest like a smoldering furnace.  It was a consuming love, but also gentle, and it slowly spread from my heart up to my head and down to my toes.  Along with this love, God placed in my mind—as one places things on a shelf—two thoughts or convictions.  The first thought was that I simply knew He removed the chip on my shoulder: the mistrust, the wariness and the fierceness of an ex-convict.  And the second thought, that God’s promise—His intention—was to eventually restore me to the little boy that I had been 25 years before.  Before my sins and the sins of others left me the disfigured person I had become.  He was giving me back to myself.  Although sin is usually thought of as something that alienates us from God and neighbor, I had also become a stranger to myself. 

My older brother and I

Although everyone wants signs and wonders, the greater miracle is the renewal of a broken person —the re-ordering and inner transformation that only God’s grace can accomplish.  A few years after my conversion, I was amazed to find a verse in the “Book of Revelation” that describes this promise.  As the city of heaven descends to close out this world, God says,

God Himself will be with them.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall their be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.  And he who sat upon the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”  (Revelation, chapter 21)

For those who have been victims of abuse, those who have lost a child, those struggling with heartache, loneliness, or despairing because of captivity to sin: the loving embrace of God does annihilate all tears and all sorrow.  Once you feel that embrace, you don’t even need an explanation from God.  He is enough.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please exercise charity and patience when you comment or your post might not be published. Thank you!