You got to love St. Paul. He went from being the number one persecutor of the first Christians to being their biggest apologist. That is a major conversion! One minute killing Christians and the next minute building up the Church all because he met the Risen Lord. Paul’s first brush with Christ was very dramatic: bright light, voice from heaven, knocked off a horse, blinded. It’s so Hollywood. I started thinking about my own brushes with God; none of them have been that dramatic, but one stands out as being pivotal. God will use whatever means necessary to reach us, even the radio.
Two weeks after my daughter was stillborn I was very upset and angry. I went to pray at church very early, about 6 am. The parish had Adoration most of the day and I needed to talk to Jesus, actually I needed to yell at Jesus. There were several people in church praying as the day began. I knelt in a back pew and hoped no one would hear my crying; I was in no mood to talk to anyone but God.
Here is a quick Catholic lesson: We believe that Jesus is really present in the Eucharist (it looks like a communion wafer). Yes, Jesus is fully present in the Eucharist. Adoration is when the Eucharist is on display for veneration in a Monstrance, which is a a beautiful cross that often looks like a sunburst. This is how I think of Adoration, Jesus is there looking at me and listening. I get to look at Jesus and, ideally, my internal monologue will shut up long enough to listen to Jesus.
I had it out with God in my head. I was screaming my prayer at God and if no one was in church that morning I would have been screaming out loud. The question on my mind that morning was “What am I supposed to do now?” After about 20 minutes without any kind of indication that God was even listening to me, I got up to leave and as I was bowing in reverence, thinking about chucking my car keys at the Monstrance, I remember yelling in my head, If you actually want to talk to me, you know where to find me! And then I stormed out of church.
A few hours later I had my first post-stillbirth checkup. It was supposed to be my 39 week checkup and instead it became my is-she-still-brushing-her-teeth-and-taking-a-shower mental health checkup. I had a Christian radio station on and as I sat at a red light the answer to my prayer was being sung through the speakers by the group Tree 63. The song Blessed Be Your Name was playing. I owned the CD, I had heard the song many times, but it was as if I was hearing it for the first time. The line that stood out was, “You give and take away, you give and take away. My heart will choose to say, blessed be your name.” The word ‘choose’ knock the breath out of me and if I was riding a horse like St. Paul I probably would have fallen off! And then I heard that still, small voice say, “You can choose God or not choose God. You can choose to believe or choose to turn away. The choice is yours.” I don’t know if it was the same still, small voice that Moses heard, but it certainly was an answer. Will my heart choose to say blessed be your name now that my daughter was dead?
I don’t know if I would ever have fully turned my back on God, but the thought did cross my mind a couple of times in the early weeks of grief. As far as “conversion moments” go in the course of history, this particular one probably won’t be remember as a Damascus Road event, but it was a huge moment in my life when I knew God would really take everything I was ready to dish out.
Everyday there is a question to be asked and a choice to be made. Will I or won’t I choose Christ?