I was watching The Journey Home the other day. Marcus Grodi was interviewing Mother Angelica. They talked about when she had her second conversion. It was more in the context of a person who was brought up Catholic and deciding for themselves to live as a Catholic and not just because they were raised that way. Even though I was not raised as a Catholic or a Christian I had a second conversion too.
When I became Catholic it was because I purposefully set out to find Truth and I had an encounter with God as Love. I think He revealed Himself to me in that way for a pretty specific reason. It was because I run from personal relationships. I run from love. Prayer is excruciating for me most of the time. I don't want to deal with that kind of intimacy. Sometimes I can't. God showed me that He loves me right off the bat but I still tried to get to know Him on a head level. The heart level was just not there. I kicked and screamed and threw tantrums about how much I wanted to have an experience of His love again. I spent so many years gaining head knowledge and avoiding prayer while at the same time complaining that I didn't seem to be getting anywhere in my relationship with God. It was pretty ridiculous.
The only thing that changed it was that I went through a period of intense suffering. The suffering was in pretty much every area of my life and it was all happening at the same time. The physical part was that I got a kidney stone. The pain was so intense I couldn't stop throwing up and it lasted for about a week. The first day the pain started God let me know in a way that I can't even describe that I should accept the pain. I did. When I accepted it, I felt peaceful and I felt close to God in a way that I never had before. I can't really explain that either.
I can't say that I've 'learned my lesson'. I still run from crosses. It wasn't all for nothing though. The thing that has stuck with me is that God is a Person who I can come to know more and more. Around this time I read the book Consoling the Heart of Jesus and it helped enormously too. I really wasn't thinking of God as a person I could know. I was thinking of Him as an idea that I could study. It was more comfortable for me that way but it wasn't satisfying. It was comfortable for me to think of Him as an idea because then it felt like I had more control. I could read what I wanted, I could learn what I wanted. I didn't have to bother with waiting for Him to reveal Himself to me. I could take the doses I wanted when I wanted and how much I wanted.
It turned out that I was only hurting myself in the end and probably Him too. He wanted to reveal Himself to me. He gave me experiences here and there when I actually tried to pray. But at the same time I complained about not feeling close to Him when He did reveal Himself to me I ran away from it. I didn't want to be vulnerable to Him. I didn't trust Him. When He revealed Himself to me in different ways I felt out of control. I still feel that way to this day. I'm trying to gain more self-knowledge but I still don't understand why I react that way to Him. It's crazy, but when I have an experience of God in prayer that I can't deny, I stop praying for a while. I get so scared I withdraw. It probably has to do with being afraid of what He's going to demand of me but I think it's deeper than that. The closest I can come right now to explaining it is that when I experience God, even though it's always consoling and peaceful, it's akin to experiencing death. It's like experiencing death because when you experience Him there all you can do is deny yourself, die to yourself, in those moments. There's nothing else you can do when you're faced with the Holy God of the Universe but shrink in humility. But, humility hurts and it really hurts a big ole sinner like me.
So, I'm still running but I think I'm starting to slow down and when I finally stop and rest, my third conversion will come.