“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” ~ Ezekiel 36:26-27
I love to hear conversion stories, continuing conversion stories, and stories of transformation. Some have been accompanied with signs and wonders and some are quiet, gentle stories. Many are very emotional. I have a passion for spiritual formation and ongoing transformation so I get excited about this and as a spiritual director I am blessed to hear about some.
My conversions have never been emotional or spectacular. When I was about 5 years of age, I had an experience of God while lying in the yard watching clouds go by overhead. I felt connected and peaceful, but that was it. I gave my life to Jesus many times. We had altar calls on Sunday nights and many times I went forward. People cried when they accepted Jesus, so I tried to squeeze out a tear or two because I believed it was expected, but there was really no emotion involved. I was never sure anything had happened or if I had “done it” right.
I was finally baptized when I was 24. I never expected anything to happen. I hadn’t been told that there could be. Baptism was a choice I made because Jesus told us we needed it, and it made me part of the Christian Community which by this time, I really needed. It was about this time in my life that I became afraid of God and was suffering from depression and panic attacks. Emotions were scary, and I tried to keep them under wraps so they didn’t get away from me. God really was after me, but not for the reasons I thought. It took some transformation before I realized he was chasing me because of Love.
In my 30s, I had prayers for the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said we were to do this. Many people received this accompanied by signs and wonders. Not me. Once again, I thought nothing had happened. There was no Holy Spirit fire that landed on my head, no ecstatic utterances such as speaking in tongues and I didn’t feel any release of anything. Why? Oddly enough, though, I began to want to read the Bible all the time. I wanted to be more involved in the Christian community. I became very interested in reading books about the Holy Spirit, about Jesus, and about healing—everything I could get my hands on.
I was concerned about the speaking in tongues issue though. Early on in life, I was taught that this was from the devil and not from God. But people were saying that speaking in tongues was the sign that you had really been baptized in the Spirit. I trusted them so I asked for prayer. I didn’t spontaneously start speaking, no words formed on my tongue or in my mind, ever. What was wrong with me? Finally months later, I said, “Ok, God. I’m going to speak, so I hope you know what I am saying, ‘cause I don’t.” The rest is history. I still find this a very helpful way to pray when I don’t know what to pray.
Emotional or not, God has continually worked in my life. Transformation and spiritual growth happens when I stay attached to the Vine. We can cooperate, but we can’t transform ourselves. A quote someone said, “We are utterly dependent upon Jesus Christ, our ever-living Savior, Teacher, Lord, & Friend for genuine spiritual transformation.” Very true. It is an ongoing process. Apparently, God is doing a new thing in me, because on retreat last weekend, I cried most all of Saturday. Tears falling all day. Emotions surfacing. A word appearing before me. A card received. But that’s another story. For another day.