In my experience, the spiritual life has been a series of conversions. Not a lightning bolt flash of light type of conversion, but periods of slow gradual purgation that have drawn me deeper into the mystery of a relationship with God. My first conversion happened in high school when my faith moved beyond a moralism (always do the right thing) to a personal relationship with God that included having an emotional connection with Him. My second conversion happened in my late twenties when I began to take seriously reading God’s Word consistently and allowing the Holy Spirit to speak to me through it. I believe I am at the tail end of my third conversion in which God has been purifying good things in and from my life for the sake of the pursuing the best thing: His kingdom. 

Amidst these periods of change and spiritual growth, it is easy for someone like myself to look wistfully at the past, slightly ashamed at my ignorance of God at that time. One such moment happened during my second conversion. I was working as a high school religion teacher and I was prepping for an overnight weekend retreat that we were hosting for the students. I personally was not in charge of the retreat (thank goodness) but I was preparing for a talk that occurs at a pivotal moment in the retreat. As I sat before the Eucharist in prayer, I reflected on my own high school retreat experiences.  I had many, and was looking at some memories with fondness. Yet, I also was critiquing my 16-year-old self and marveled at my ignorance, almost embarrassed in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. 

It was at that moment that I felt God speak in my heart, “Yeah, but I loved that kid.” Surprised, I was overcome with a bit of emotion. I knew God’s love (and taught about it daily), but sometimes it’s hard to understand His love for me in my heart, especially when I am viewing myself with criticism. His consolations reminded me in that moment, that yeah, it may have been more ideal for my 16-year-old self to have a deeper relationship with Him, but He was still immensely in love with His child who was seeking Him. 

As a Father, these words have taken on an even deeper meaning. As my wife and I raise our three kids, they do not always understand our rules, and why we have them. They can often be controlled by ‘kid emotions’ and not understanding the wisdom that she and I are trying to hand down to them, both in the faith and in daily living. But even when they do not understand the freedom through discipline that we are trying to give them, I can sit back and say, with all sincerity, “Yeah, but I love these kids.”  God looks at all of us in the same way. He is constantly trying to hand on the wisdom of His discipline, but even when we don’t understand, His love for us still abounds. We should never forget that the journey to heavenly perfection is our eternal end, but just as important if not more so, is that God is lovingly present to us each step of the way and that should give us the inspiration and courage to continue on our journey of conversions.