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Being a parent and converted are alike in so many ways!

January 24, 2015

After we got married Viv and I were keen to have children. We spent time with friends who had children. We saw what they had and we wanted it too. We were a bit selective perhaps in what we really saw. Things like nappies and sleepless nights weren’t given the prominence they deserve, for example. We were excited at the thought of bringing new life into the world – Sure that we would be wonderful parents. Then Elinor came: We were converted from being a couple into being parents. Our world changed for ever.

With another life at the heart of our family so much changed. Our social life didn’t vanish but it was certainly different. Either it involved taking a baby with us or finding a baby sitter. Sleep became a luxury. We could no longer just plan for ourselves, now there was always another life to love and protect.

Conversion is like that too, it changes everything, for ever. Looking at the conversion of St. Paul (Acts 9.1-22), those events on the road to Damascus completely changed the course of Paul’s life. Before Damascus Paul was out to arrest and even kill Christians where ever he could find them. His hands were already bloody from the death of Stephen in Jerusalem. Then he had a dramatic meeting with Jesus, and Jesus’ followers. From then on all the energy that had gone into persecuting Christians went into supporting them. He now championed Christianity with the same passion that he had shown in trying to wipe out the Church.

So the direction of Paul’s life had utterly changed. But Paul had not. Paul the person had not changed. Paul was still an ‘all or nothing’ person. Paul was still utterly passionate in his devotion to God. Paul still paid the bills by working as a tent maker. Paul was still a well educated Jew who knew how to explore the Old Testament to find its meaning. Paul was still a gifted theologian.

Looking back to Elinor’s birth, that was the same for me and Viv. Our whole world had changed but we hadn’t. It was only afterwards, as we learned how to be parents that we grew and changed. We learned new things about ourselves; our strengths and weaknesses. We learned new ways of loving but also new fears and burdens. That birth had changed our life’s path so much but the change only came later. Indeed, we are still learning how to be parents, even now over 20 years later.

When I think of Christian conversion, I always think of the difference that that conversion brings but so often I forget what doesn’t change. Looking back to my own conversion at the age of 18, the whole direction of my life changed very quickly. But I remained the same person. This I think is central to understanding how God works with me, and with everyone. God in Christ calls everyone to come to him as they are. Which is just as well because I know that I couldn’t have done anything else. When I came to know Jesus, he accepted me; good and bad, strengths and faults. The Spirit opened my eyes to see how he had been working in me my whole life. The Spirit opened my eyes to a whole new world where all things are ensouled by God. A world where good is Good and bad is Evil; an added dimension to everything.

I came to God just as I was, frankly a mess and found absolute acceptance and love. I fell in love, and then the change began. I started out just the same and slowly my relationship with God changed me – a bit like the way my relationship with my daughter has changed me but on a whole other level. God has been true to his promises and the Spirit has not stopped working in me to make me more like Jesus. He is working on me every moment of every day to make me more loving;

  • with the Love that God used to create this world;
  • the Love that sent Jesus into this world so that idiots like me might recognise something Godly in another human being;
  • Love that led Jesus to the cross; and
  • Love that is stronger even than death.

I know I’m still an idiot who fails to see so much and is so slow to learn – just ask my daughter! Thankfully, my daughter just rolls her eyes when I’m stupid; and God, well God just keeps on loving me with a love that is infinitely greater than my failings – Maybe he rolls his eyes too!

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