Conversion is a delicate process that involves the convergence of many different factors. Having seen just a few examples of people who are “on the way,” I have become more and more aware of the mystery of it all. I have come to appreciate that while my interior life and disposition may remain partially hidden from others, my attitudes and prejudices still contain the potential to disrupt what the Holy Spirit is doing in the lives of those who come to me.
Being able to communicate Christ’s love in ways that move and inspire is not simply the result of having it all figured out. Helping facilitate conversion cannot be reduced to external technique and intellectual proficiency, though natural ability can certainly help. The reality is that the hidden roots of sin will always surface in ways that we are unable to discern or recognize, and that is why contrition is an essential ingredient. The more we walk in the awareness that we are sinners in need of forgiveness, the more we will be able to renounce self and so make room for the Holy Spirit.
One inspiration that has stayed with me and helped me to cultivate contrition is as follows: Many people who come to me may in fact be greater in the kingdom of God. While my training helps me to offer counsel and guidance, such training should not be confused for holiness. True holiness always contains an element of mystery because at its core it involves a simple fact that cannot be automatically detected. True holiness is grounded in our response to God’s initiative and our docility to his will. Someone who at one moment may seem far from the Lord may end up learning to respond to God with total abandonment.
Learning to walk with others involves a constant awareness that our limited perspectives are rarely able to grasp the truth of any one person’s life, including our own. What may appear as great holiness can turn out to be simply a subtle disguise for pride and selfishness, while the most crippling of compulsions can become incredible opportunities for transformation. Learning to embrace mystery is at the heart of cultivating stillness because it is our attachments to self which keep us from embracing the happiness offered in Jesus Christ.
That is why leading others to conversion involves us constantly walking the path of conversion. Holiness must be a commitment made day by day and moment by moment. It must be renewed as often as we breath, and thus it must enter into the fabric of our being. In all that we do, we must constantly live so as to proclaim, “Not my will, but your will… Not my love, but your love… Not me, but you.” Only then will we be able to help others do the same.