Many years ago -- as a college student, I suppose -- I heard somebody share a prayer that stayed with me since me since then. And the prayer is this: Lord, give me back the zeal of my first conversion.
We can experience conversion daily, like when we say our night prayers and resolve to do better the following day. We can experience conversion more than once each day, like when we mumble hurried but sincere words of contrition after a deliberately mean act. To be authentic, conversion doesn't have to come with the drama of Paul's conversion (blindness would definitely scare me), but if it does, let's thank the Lord for the unequivocal affirmation!
Still, I am sure that for each one of us, after our Baptism and as grown-ups, there still was that first conversion. I venture that that first conversion came when as independently thinking and free individuals, we felt God's promptings and decided to follow Him deliberately and wholly with our hearts. Maybe we felt it during a moment of gratitude for blessings undeserved, during a moment of awe while we were studying science, philosophy, or the humanities and reason led us to regard the omnipotence of God, or during a moment of helplessness when as young parents, we realized that bringing up our children can be an overwhelming responsibility.
And with that first conversion came zeal in our hearts. I heard a priest say that the heart is made up of our mind and our emotions, and I believe him. Thank God that the mind is relatively stable compared to our emotions because after the emotions that came with that first conversion have leveled off, the mind -- guided by faith, prodded on by hope, and acting on love -- is still there to carry the work of conversion.
The mind -- reliable, resilient, and constant. It plods on insisting that zeal doesn't have to come with drum rolls and fireworks. The love, vigor, and determination in our hearts can be just as real in the silence of drudgery. And that silence is profound and comforting because God speaks in silence.
Not that emotions are a useless nebula. Cannot joy, excitement, and laughter make elbow grease seem like caramel or chocolate syrup? That is why when the work of conversion gets too tough, demanding, and protracted, we miss the happy heartbeats and the easy laughter. Because while the mind can and does plod on, the heart misses the cheer and kick of emotions.
Might that be the dryness or the dark night that Saint Mother Teresa spoke of? Or maybe just a faint hue of that darkness? I don't know. I feel preposterous asking that question! How dare me compare my circumstances with that of a saint!
But yes, these days, I pray that prayer I heard long ago and have kept in my heart since. Lord, give me back the zeal of my first conversion.
Saint Mother Teresa, please intercede for me.