Conversion is not a singular moment, but a continual process over our entire life.
One of the most inspiring ways to share our faith with those around us is through giving our testimony. In college, these were constantly given to me by my peers. To be honest, while everyone was inspired in their faith, I found myself frustrated and disappointed in myself. The reason I felt this way was due to a misconception I had built up in my head. All of the testimonies I heard included a moment where the individual had an “aha” moment where they came to know Christ and then had “perfect” faith after that. Contrarily, when looking at my own testimony I saw a rocky path full of trips and falls after my alleged “aha” moment. A faith far from perfect.
This frustration grew over the years and often led me to focusing purely on my shortcomings. It wasn’t until years after this frustration had planted its roots into my heart that a priest offered the idea of “continual conversion” to me. This idea is that the conversion of the heart that testimonies often cover is not defined by an “aha” moment. No, this “aha” moment is one spread over the entirety of our life. The Spirit is gentle and oftentimes the movements of the heart are slow and take time to take root. As are the conversion of the heart.
We live in a “right-now” culture. You want that new book? Amazon has it. You wanna watch that new movie? Netflix has it. For the past 50 years our culture has been shifting to a mindset that our desires are always in our reach. Unfortunately for those of you like me with little patience, the journey to sainthood is not on-demand. Although this can be frustrating to not have a tangible goal of “perfect faith” by the age of 30, we should be thankful God did not design it like that. Contrarily, it was designed to be an ongoing process that ends only when we die and return back to the Father in heaven. So chin up, there’s still time!
Knowing that the conversion is life long and not one big moment is freeing. We no longer have to hold ourselves up to the expectations we have built for ourselves. Instead we can find peace in trusting God’s timing, the graces that will come from the struggles, and fully understand how weak we are and how desperately we are in need of a savior. Still, though, we may struggle letting go of this idea of the “aha” moment. It is natural as fallen human persons to seek this and desire it, but why do we seek it even when we know God didn’t design it like that?
Growth vs. Fixed Mindsets
This question led me into conversation with a dear friend a few months back in which he recommended I look up “fixed vs. growth mindsets.” Purely psychologically speaking, in a fixed mindset a person believes that their abilities, intelligence, potential, etc. are all fixed and cannot change. Another way of framing this mindset I once read was that an individual believes that their “failures are the limit of their abilities.” Contrarily, in a growth mindset a person sees themself as having potential, able to grow and learn new things, and that challenges help them grow. They see failure as an opportunity to grow as an individual. Likewise in the faith, we often look at our journey with a fixed mindset. That we are only as good as our greatest fall, that our sin defines us, that God could never love a poor soul like me. When we shift to the growth mindset though we see our shortcomings and sins as opportunities to return to the Father. As JP2 once said,
“We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures, we are the sum of the Father's love for us and our real capacity to become the image of His Son Jesus.”
Allowing ourselves to embrace the growth mindset frees us to see the whole picture of conversion. We come to understand that the journey to “become the image of His Son Jesus” is one full of peaks and valleys. Only then can we cease to compare our journey to those around us and only then can we truly chase after that “perfect” faith we all so ardently desire.