Last Friday, I got a call from a mother who wanted to know if she should make her daughter enroll in Confirmation classes. I understand her desire to push her daughter through this last stage of accepting the faith.
I also understand the destructive consequences that can result when people are pushed into adopting something they don't fully believe just to please you. Naturally, I counseled her to wait until her daughter is really ready before she sends her through the program.
I waited, impatiently, for 18 years for my husband's conversion. I know the pain, I know the agony, I know the temptation to push that comes.
I also know first hand what it gets you when you do push. The harder you push, the further they go. That's why I am writing this article, to give you a few tips on what to do while you're waiting for that conversion moment.
Pray. A lot.
Conversions don't happen because human beings will them to happen. Conversions are a moment of God's grace reaching down from the heavens to touch the human heart. They must be done gently and at the right moment in order for that touch to open the heart rather than shatter it. This means that you can expect a whole lot of waiting. You can't force this conversion or it won't last.
Gather a Community
I spent 18 years waiting for my husband's conversion, but 17 of those years I was trying to get there by myself. It happened one year after I gathered not one but two communities together to pray with me. God likes to wait until his miracles of grace bless multiple lives and answer multiple prayers before he answers. That way, it becomes a cause for humble gratitude rather than a head-swelling, "I did this" moment.
Invite Them to Adoration with You
Adoration's quiet. It's undemanding. It's peaceful, and it works. I invited my husband to go with me to adoration in the year before his decision to join the Church. It was easier for him than going with me to Church. Nothing was expected of him, and he could appreciate the quiet even if he didn't understand the source of the peace that he found there.
Be Patient and Don't Give Up
Conversions often take years to accomplish because God must break through to this person and that means gently wooing and pursuing their hearts. Sometimes those hearts have been hardened by the wounds they carry, sometimes because the people in their lives have led them in the wrong directions. God has to dismantle all that old stuff before he can even begin to build something new or it just won't last.
Don't quit praying, and don't give up just because you don't see the progress you want to see. Once, when I asked God why He was taking so long with the conversion, He told me that He takes so long because what He builds, He builds for eternity. He builds with the idea that what is built should last forever, and that means going slowly and making sure that the ground is prepared before the building begins.
Understand This: Your Own Conversion Must Come First
You will never be able to help this person adopt the faith until you can explain it to them in a meaningful way. If you can't explain Church teaching, if you're rebelling against it yourself, if you're confused, if you're doubtful, those things will all cause the other person to look with doubt on what you're trying to offer them. It's not that you have to be able to explain every single teaching of the Church, but you have to know what the faith teaches and understand why.
So, while you're waiting, spend time educating yourself. Read up on the reasons. Wrestle with God over the things you find. Ask questions, and get the answers. Keep asking until your own hunger is satisfied. Believe me, the answers are out there. Seek out human sources, but when those fail don't be afraid to ask God directly to help you understand. He wants you to understand so that your obedience is done with the right intentions.
Stop Talking and Listen
Create a safe place for the person you want to convert to ask questions. Listen to them and don't argue with them. Ask them questions when you think it's relevant, but don't provide the answers unless they ask for them. Above all, don't get angry no matter what it is they say. This isn't about you, and believe it or not they aren't attacking you. They are wrestling with the idea of God, and they need someone they can trust who is big enough to handle that.
I say this from painful experience. I did almost everything wrong in this department, and as a result his conversion came slower because he couldn't get my help in answering his questions.
You Can't Force a Relationship
Conversion is about developing a relationship with Jesus. It isn't something that can be forced on someone. It has to be chosen. You can facilitate an introduction by offering an invitation. You can certainly describe your own relationship and the benefits you've gained from it. But above all that relationship must be entered into on their own. It cannot be done by force of will or strength.