This week it struck me that faith is not a one-time “come to Jesus” event. Or rather there’s not one point of belief. I don’t think there’s one moment of conversion.
We are called to a thousand little conversions. We are invited into constant transformation, continuous reformation.
In 1854 William Holman Hunt painted a picture he entitled, The Light of the World. It depicts Jesus standing at an old overgrown door knocking. Upon deeper inspection you see that the door has no handle. Although some critics assumed Hunt had forgotten a door handle Hunt insisted the door handle was missed by deliberate design. Fifty years after he painted it he was still explaining the symbolism– the door could only be opened from the inside representing what he called our “obstinately stubborn mind(s)”.
I love the picture. It moves me to see Jesus still wearing his crucifixion crown of thorns standing there so gently. He’s waiting. Patiently.
I answered the door and let Jesus in years ago.
But I’ve discovered that Jesus is kind of like a nosy neighbor, he keeps knocking. And more recently he’s started ringing the doorbell too. He doesn’t call first, he just shows up. Now I find he’s been exploring my soul-house and he’s tapping on other doors too.
I find him rapping gently on my children’s doors. Will I trust him with my kids? Will I let him be in charge of the Parenting of their souls, the Writer of their stories? Will I? It’s a moment of decision. I have to make the choice to let him into those rooms.
He’s shown up at my closet door. Will I trust him with what I’ll wear? He’s been in the kitchen too. I wouldn’t be surprised if he knocks on the fridge door next. Will I believe that he’ll provide for the very basic things we need? Do I honestly think he’ll take care of our family?
In February he knocked on the cupboard door where I keep our photo albums. I thought that was ridiculous! What on earth was he doing wanting in there? I was pretty sure he had the wrong door, but I opened it for him and showed him the contents. He wants me to trust him with my memories, with my past, with the pain of being separated from my parents when I went to boarding school. Will I? Will I let him redeem even that space?
These are moments of conversion for me. These are thousands of opportunities for him to change my mind about my kids, about the food I eat, the clothes I wear, the memories I hide. There are thousands of these little conversions every day.
In India we rarely used the word “conversion”. It had come to mean “forced conversion”. There were groups of Christians who would move into a village and promise seed to grow their crops for everyone that would “convert”. Naturally, thousands of people “converted” and earned their free seed. (I’ve certainly done much less to earn a free gift as a result of marketing ploys)! Months later groups of Hindus would then move into the same village and offer a free blanket for those who “convert” back to Hinduism. Of course thousands would “convert” back for their free blanket. Nothing happened in the heart for those poor manipulated villagers. The statistics the Christians were collecting were padded. The numbers of reclaimed were increased for the Hindus that came reconverting later. It was a manipulated mess. Consequently we tried to avoid the word, “convert”.
With the crucified Jesus there is no such thing as a “forced conversion”. He doesn’t force his way into any space. Jesus knocks patiently and gently. He asks permission. We can ignore the knocking. We can pretend no one is home initially and then later when he gets nosy and curious we can pretend there’s nothing of interest in the places where he knocks. He will never push his way in. He will never barge in. He is ever long-suffering. He’ll wait.
But when he enters a space, no matter how mundane or painfully significant, he brings freedom and rest. He redeems. He restores.
Like Hunt, I think Jesus still wears the crown of thorns. It reminds us that he endured a lot for the opportunity to be a part of our lives. The cross matters. It’s a matter of life or death for us. The cross was the way, as mysterious as it is, that God made for us to be able to relate to him at all.
Today, on Good Friday, I’m letting Jesus in. Deeper. I want to trust him with more. I want him to continue to convert me, transform me, change me. I want him to make himself at home.
This is my (Good) Friday prayer for a thousand little conversions.
- Walking today, Good Friday, with Jesus and Mary … Friday, March 29 (judemarian.wordpress.com)
- Pope Francis on How Priests Should Be [Catholic Dialogue]