There is an ancient story about a witch that use to walk through the streets of Alexandria. In one hand she carried a torch and in the other a pitcher of water. When asked why, she would say, "I am going to burn heaven with this torch and put out the fires of hell with this water so that people will love God for God's Self alone. This story points out that only the theme of grace is prepared to move religion beyond the bad and tired story line of reward and punishment. Many of us grew up in churches where we were taught if we were good God would love us, but if we were bad, He was just waiting to "get us!"
Teresa of Avila was a Spanish noblewoman with Jewish roots who chose a monastic life in the Roman Catholic Church in the mid 1500's. Tradition has it that after one excruciatingly painful experience, that she raised her eyes to God and uttered: "If this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few of them!" I laugh every time I read that story, but there is a part of me that often empathizes with Teresa of Avila.
I do not believe that God's love for me is dependent upon my good or bad behavior. I have found that good behavior is beneficial and does make the journey joyous...however, God does not punish me for bad behavior. There are consequences to bad behavior, and they can often become learning experiences...but I find it difficult to believe that God is out there just waiting to "get me!"
When I put on my evangelist hat, I always try to hold up the shiny side of the gospel: "God loves you"..."You can be forgiven"..."You can begin again"..."You have a future." And all of this is true, and the beginner's faith must surely be inviting and deeply personal. However, I also believe, in what I have come to call..."Deep Conversion."
When we take that step of faith to become a disciple of Jesus we cannot really know where the process of Christian conversion and spiritual transformation is going to take us. If we did, many would not begin. I had no idea at age 9 when I made my commitment to Christ what all that would involve in my future. I thought I was hitting heaven and missing hell. It was more about me than Christ in my life. Relinquishing attachments to family (Matthew 10:37), reputation (Mark 14:7-11), money (Mark 10:23), and power I have come to learn takes DEEP CONVERSION. Learning to "take up your cross daily" takes DEEP CONVERSION. Learning to live by the "red letters" takes DEEP CONVERSION.
DEEP CONVERSION is precisely what Jesus calls for. DEEP CONVERSION takes a lifetime.
This is my story...