When I was a kid, despite being the son of a Presbyterian minister, I was exposed to many other Christian denominations. My best friend was a United Church of Christ minister’s son, I attended a Pentecostal middle school, a Quaker high school, and was friends with Evangelicals, Baptists, Lutherans, Catholics, you name it. I recall being age twelve or so, and making a decision for Christ.
My resolve lasted for at least a month. Maybe more. But there I was, entering the teenage years, with so many bright and shiny things in the world as distractions. So the “practice” of my young faith was sporadic at best. I chased a bunch of shiny things, but they didn’t seem quite so alluring when I got up close.
In my early twenties, I decided that the faith needed to be taken seriously. I spoke to an older friend at the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church we attended at the time, and asked him about my experience of “being saved” as a child.
“Well, maybe you weren’t really saved that time,” he said.
He went on to explain that once you’re saved, you’re really, truly saved and you would never want to do anything to rebel against God. If you backslide, as I had done during my teens, it probably means that your decision for Christ didn’t really work, and you hadn’t truly been saved the first time.
Many years later, I have a deeper understanding of the theological arguments underpinning both sides of this issue, which were vastly oversimplified in this passing conversation. My friend is a great guy, very sincere in his faith and doing his level best to live what he believes. But I don’t think he’s right on this particular question.
In becoming Catholic, I began to see conversion as a process, rather than a moment in time. Of course, I appreciated baptism in a different light too. But the process of conversion is just that – a process, where we are constantly opening our hearts to God, seeking His transformative power in our lives. Conversion begins again with every new day, wherever we are, and lasts a lifetime.
So here’s the challenge. Even when we’re going through tremendous hardship, and feel like the weight of the world is on our shoulders, let’s persevere in our conversion process. God gives us the grace we need, and even our smallest steps towards Him can yield eternal results.