What is a conversion experience? The Apostle Paul, who has been described as a Jewish Christ-mystic, had a conversion experience. While on the road to Damascus pursuing an order to arrest early followers of Jesus, Paul had an ineffable experience in which he describes both seeing and hearing the resurrected Christ. In this experience Paul was called to share the gospel or good news of Jesus Christ.
In 1875, my great-great grandmother Clara Cambridge had been a Christian for about six months when she walked with her husband to the River Thames in London, Ontario, Canada with a small group to attend a baptism service. She and others present reported seeing a light shining down on the baptism. The two women being baptized on a cold December night reported that the water was not cold. The missionary J.J. Cornish performed the baptism and described the light as well. My grandfather was “converted” to the church and later baptized as a result of this experience. I remember my grandmother telling me this story with tears on her cheeks just as she had been told this story by her grandmother.
My own conversion experience occurred when I was a child singing the song “The Old, Old Path” in a Sunday School classroom in Lakewood, California. My twin sister Glenna had died at 23 months. As a young boy, I often missed her and wondered what might have been. I found the words of the song reassuring, especially the third and fourth verse:
There’s an old, old path
where the sun shines through
life’s dark storm clouds from
its home of blue,
in this old, old path
made strangely sweet
by the touch divine
of his blessed feet.
Find the old, old path;
’twill be ever new,
for the Savior walks
all the way with you,
In this old, old path
are my friends most dear,
and I walk with them,
with the angels near,
’Tis an old, old path,
shadowed vales between,
yet I fearless walk
with the Nazarene,
I was baptized not long after this experience of singing “The Old, Old Path.” I still remember singing the phrase “shadowed vales between” and noticing how the morning sun was “shining through” the window slats in the classroom in a pattern on the floor.
As a teenager, I had a different kind of conversion experience. Apostle Will Timms preached at the closing service of our week long church camp for all ages. When I got home from camp at the end of the day, I remember lying in bed and praying and had a clear sense of accepting Jesus as my personal savior. The realization of being saved nearly caused me to leap out of bed.
Conversion experiences can be spectacularly noticeable experiences or quiet inner realizations. But the key to a conversion experience is that they change us. “I once was lost, but now am found” John Newton wrote.
In 1929, Dietrich Bonhoeffer felt challenged by fellow student Jean Laserre’s statement that “in my mind it is impossible to be both a Christian and a nationalist.” Bonhoeffer was transformed by reading the Bible again with a focus on the Sermon on the Mount and by worshipping in the New World at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem.
Have you had a conversion experience? How has your life changed?
Spiritual Practices for Today
Transformation occurs when we face a life experience that so alters our perspective that we are changed. Take time to meditate today. As you center yourself in God’s transforming love, what prayer word or phrase comes to ind?
Prayer of Encouragement
Pray: God of Transformation, help me to come near to you and see the world from a new perspective. Change me from old ways of seeing and doing and open me to the new possibilities of life in Jesus Christ in whose name I pray. Amen.
2 Corinthians 5:17
So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
What word or phrase do you find yourself wanting to contemplate and explore in this passage?
How is this passage speaking to you today?
Daily Bread and Daily Prayer for Peace
Download or open the Community of Christ app on your smartphone or visit www.cofchrist.org to read today’s Daily Bread and Prayer for Peace. After reading the Daily Bread, consider these questions:
What is the main point made by the author?
How can this reflection help guide you in spiritual formation today?
Pray the Mission Prayer: God, where will your Spirit lead today? Help me be fully awake and ready to respond. Grant me the courage to risk something new and become a blessing of your love and peace. Amen.
2021 Guiding Question: Are we moving towards Jesus, the peaceful One?