Conversion: It’s What’s in the Middle

Imagine you’re playing a trivia game and in the final round, your team draws the question, “Name the Biblical figure who parted the Red Sea.”

Moses. Phew. That was an easy one.

For anyone who’s spent time around virtually any church, synagogue, mosque, or literature class, Moses is a pretty familiar figure. And so as Catholics who read, study, and pray the Scriptures, we can easily think, Moses? Check. I know who that is, and end up settling for a childhood memory of Moses. You know…Moses as an Israelite superhero, the guy who parted the Red Sea, the one who looks like Charlton Heston…

This summer, our weekday lectionary features a run through some of the main highlights of the first five books of the Bible. Moses’ story features prominently, especially during this July. But why does Moses matter for us as adults? 

For one, we see in Moses’ life a clear demonstration of God’s initiative and our cooperation. God captures Moses’ attention through a burning bush. But that’s not the end of the story. It takes Moses a little while to get on board with God’s plan, to  accept (not an easy task) and then grow into (an even tougher practical challenge) the life God calls him to.

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we read:

Only after long debate does Moses attune his own will to that of the Savior God. But in the dialogue in which God confides in him, Moses also learns how to pray: he balks, makes excuses, above all questions: and it is in response to his question that the Lord confides his ineffable name, which will be revealed through his mighty deeds (para. 2575).

And this highlights another great truth about reorienting one’s life towards God—conversion isn’t just about the starting point and ending point, but about what goes on in the middle. Moses learns how to pray through his balking, excuses, questions, disputes with God, and more. This is at the heart of growing throughout our lives and in praying more authentically. With Moses, God confides in him, precisely because Moses has asked the tough questions.

This is a challenge to me as a disciple of Christ. While I may be praying, I can’t honestly say that I’m always taking my balking, my excuses, and most troubling questions to God in prayer.

Maybe it’s because I’m afraid of God’s answer, or don’t have enough faith that God will answer. But, looking toward Moses, we find an example of one whose extensive conversations with God in prayer led to greater conversion and communication of God’s message with others.

The bottom line? Deep, authentic prayer isn’t the end point or “result” of conversion as a Catholic Christian—it’s part of the process of our ongoing response to God’s work in our lives.

Copyright © 2013, Colleen Vermeulen

Colleen Vermeulen

Colleen Vermeulen

Colleen Reiss Vermeulen, M.Div., M.N.A., blogs, ministers in parish life and lay/deacon formation, and serves as a U.S. Army Reserve officer. She and her husband, Luke, have been married since 2011 and live in Ypsilanti, MI with their two young sons.

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