Someone once asked Ray Comfort, the famous New Zealand-born evangelist, if he’d ever witnessed a miracle. Ray’s response was an emphatic: “Yes. Conversion.” His answer really struck a cord with me. Many Christians, myself included, have witnessed or heard about miracles as a result of prayers of intercession, but there is another miracle which is far more commonplace and which occurs in the life of every true believer. It’s the miracle which turns enemies of God into fearless preachers of the Gospel, people consumed by lust into consecrated celibates or faithful spouses, liars into honest men and women, sinners into saints. May 20th will mark the one-year anniversary of my baptism and reception into the Church, and in this post I reflect on the miracle of conversion as Jesus has worked it in my own life.
Looking at the above pictures, I can’t help but weep at the goodness of God. I can’t help but be overwhelmed by the depths of His grace and mercy. As the first one shows, in my teenage years I was heavily immersed in the rock scene subculture. I was a young girl who was harbouring deep, unresolved pain, and looking back I can see how that manifested in my appearance and the lack of respect with which I treated myself (and those around me). Back then, I had a very warped sense of what was beautiful, my goal being to look as dark and demonic as possible. My bedroom walls were covered in posters of rock musicians such as Marilyn Manson and the Sex Pistols. They were the ‘gods’ I worshipped, and my idea of a really good time was going to a rock club with my friends, drinking heavily and showing off my body to anyone who would pay attention. I was in desperate need of God’s love, but like so many others I was blind to see it.
The middle photograph was taken in 2015 at my then-boyfriend’s house. An abusive narcissist who had me jumping through hoops to try and earn his love, this picture shows me trying very very hard to be what I thought he wanted me to be (an independent and self-sufficient businesswoman). Still hungry for unconditional love, I believed the lie that this was something I could get from another person if only I met their impossible and ever-changing standards. I was lost, miserable and also heavily involved with the new age and occult. This naturally meant that I was incredibly hostile to God and His Church – if someone had told me that eighteen months later, I would be kneeling before Him with a contrite and sorrowful heart, I would never have believed them!
The final picture was taken immediately after my baptism, confirmation and first Holy Communion, while the water and chrism were still wet on my forehead. After months of praying, studying and searching, this was the day when I finally passed from death to life.
I’d say I’ve never been happier, but that would be inaccurate. To say that I didn’t know what happiness was before I fell in love with Jesus would really be closer to the truth.
These pictures show an obvious external change, but the miracle of conversion really happens inside – in our hearts and minds, as God’s Word promised it would:
‘…this is the covenant I will make with the House of Israel when those days arrive – it is the LORD who speaks. Deep within them I will plant my Law, writing it on their hearts. Then I will be their God and they shall be my people.’ (Jeremiah 31: 33)
For me, these changes started happening before my baptism, from the moment I repented of my sins and accepted the Lord’s invitation to walk with Him (an invitation which He’d been gently but persistently extending since I was a little girl). It happened gradually and at first I didn’t even notice it, but little by little I began to feel uncomfortable with the things I’d once loved, such as secular music, immodest clothing and vain materialism. I didn’t realise it at the time, but God had begun His sanctifying work in my life. Often it was two, or several steps forward, followed by one, or several, steps back. However, I think that this is quite normal and the process will be lifelong, as it is for all of us.
I’m more than a little ashamed of my past and sharing these photos does make me feel slightly embarrassed. However, I feel that it’s important to do so because we need to address the myth that people are born saints and that there’s something abnormal about being a Christian who struggles with sin or has a dark past. The truth is that every saint in Heaven is there because God chose them to be set apart, by His grace enabling them, little by little, to overcome their broken nature and to live lives of holiness, for apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15: 5).
Maybe you’re a Christian who is ashamed of their old life. Perhaps you don’t yet believe and are only tentatively enquiring about the faith. Whatever your story, I hope that this post has shown you that what the Scriptures promise is correct:
‘And for anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation; the old creation has gone, and now the new one is here. It is all God’s work.’ (2 Corinthians 5: 17-18)
Don’t write yourself off. Regardless of how many wrong turns you’ve taken and no matter how awful things seem or how far you think you’ve fallen, you need to know that there is always hope in Christ Jesus. He died for you, and He wants to give you a new life in Him. You are infinitely loved. Believe.