Paul’s conversion story is quite breathtaking. Breathing threats and violence against the disciples of Jesus, he makes his way to Damascus in order to persecute the followers of the Way. But on that road his heart is changed, and changed drastically in an instant. Paul sees a bright light from heaven and hears the voice of the Lord Jesus. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, his heart is changed. (You can read the story in Acts 9, Acts 22, or Acts 26.)
The rest of his life is framed by this single event. Everything else he does – his preaching, his missionary journeys, his prayers – find their meaning in that one experience he had on the road to Damascus.
Allow me to be honest: I did not have an experience like Paul’s. My decision to follow the Way didn’t take place in an instant. Jesus didn’t speak to me with a dazzling light from the heavens. My conversion to a life of faith is still a work in progress. Every single day requires me to consciously attend to the matters of faith. No joke, it’s not like praying or reading the holy scriptures comes naturally for me. It takes work, hard work, for me to live a life of faith. Sure, I’ve had moments of spiritual insights which I believe are gifts from our Father. But these pale in comparison to what the Acts of Apostles describe of Paul’s experience.
I would imagine that many of you resonate more with me than with Paul. Now take a big sigh of relief, because that’s okay. Every conversion story is different. Some take place in a moment, others take years, even decades. Don’t be envious, jealous, or intimidated by Paul. Instead, I ask you to rejoice in his vision and his conversion experience. I have a pretty good hunch that Paul would rejoice in your story, your conversion experience, regardless of how long it took or has taken.
What really matters, the real heart of the issue is that we become followers of the Way, not how or when.