Friday, June 10, 2011

Conversion Takes a Lifetime

A few months ago, The Lovely Daughter, midway through graduate school, advised me as follows:

"I think it's hopeless, Mom.  If people don't believe in God by the time they reach adulthood, it's not gonna happen."

"Not so," I responded.  "I was well into adulthood before I thought there might be a God. "

"Really?" She looked at me skeptically.

"When I was your age, I never gave any thought to God.  And if anyone had asked, I would have described myself as an atheist."

I'm not sure that she believed me.  But our conversation came to mind as I drove down a street in a neighboring suburb last night and saw a law school classmate walking home from Shavuot services with a friend.

In law school we knew one another well -- our last names start with the same letter and so we were placed in the same section of our course in legal research, writing, and advocacy, thus becoming members of a small group destined to spend many of our waking hours together for our first year.  As far as I know we both lived lives that were basically secular:  culturally identifiable as Jew and Christian around our respective holiday times, but otherwise indistinguishable in our lives from others who had no religious affiliation of any kind.

Today she is an observant Orthodox Jew.  Her husband is one of the city's most successful businessmen, and they are major supporters of many major Jewish projects and institutions (including the Orthodox day school in which I used to teach).  She looked great last evening, her long skirt swinging well below her knees and a boyish cap topping her blonde curls.

And today I'm a spiritual director and a candidate for ordination in my denomination.  I have a lot more flexibility in my attire than she does, but the invisible changes in the religious landscapes of our lives are remarkably similar.  And from our conversations over the years I taught school, I'd say we are both engaged in a lifetime experience of growth toward God.

Nope, LD, there is no timetable for religious conversion.


  1. I'd agree. I remember discovering the communion of saints when I was small, and always have had some form of church attendance as part of my adult life.

    But.... I had (sometimes still have) issues with God and I can't say that we have always been friends or close. I always beleived in the existence of God but not necessarily that this was a good thing.

    Likewise it has been the work of a lifetime this conversion.

    Please thank LD for making me look at my journey in this way. Interesting and enlightening. I did have some massive arrogance when I was young! I wonder how much it has faded?

  2. I am hogging your blog but I keep thinking about this lifetime journey.

    As briefly as I can.... two things...

    Firstly I don't think God ever stops calling us and the Spirit, she whispers in our ear constantly. Who can say when we will hear, when we will listen?

    And this. Even as I learn I think I shall never get out of the baby classes. It is not an original thought this that I shall always be a beginner. Used to bother me, now I am more content to know what I don't know.

  3. Yes, I believe that our capacity for hearing changes and spirals. I don't know why that should be, but it seems to be the case. And the answers human beings have come up with seem barely adequate to the mystery which, I suppose, explains why the most insightful among us have consistently said that we are always beginners.