I’ve caught myself in the last few years reacting to my Evangelical upbringing around conversion. Why does it have to look and sound one way for everyone? It’s as if to say, “Come, go through the motions, say the magic words, and you can be sure your name is in the Book of Life.” It’s only been recently that I realized my reaction has been mostly passive and negative. I’ve reacted in a way that hasn’t proactive in finding words, images and stories to frame how I understand a theology of conversion. But I think things are slowly starting to piece themselves together again. I trust that my interaction with God is true, and my experiences are trustworthy, but I no longer feel that my experience needs to be someone else’s. My experience of God is not normative for everyone else and it doesn’t have to be. Salvation can take on many forms and happens all around us. When it happens I know that it has an individual component as well as a communal one. It involves my life story and a community of people who embody the truth of salvation in the world. Salvation is never a proper formulation of words, and it is never isolated and abstracted from real life.
What seems to me to be normative are the fruits, the practices, the outcomes of an authentic experience. So then conversion becomes more about the entire journey of one’s life and how that person was faithful to God given what they had. It is about “biography as theology,” a life living out its convictions rather than paying lip service to them. I appreciates the seed of God within all people, while recognizing that we may not always in line with that seed. This helps me appreciate more where people are at in their journey, trusting that God has led them to this place. I don’t have to feel like I need to club them over the head with my ideas (though I still am guilty of this). I can invite them to enter a new space, or try and experience or interact with God in a new way, but not because they are wrong, but because I too want them to taste and see that the Lord is good for themselves.