At the end of the month will be my anniversaries of Baptism and first Holy Communion. It's been seventeen years. If you throw in my catechumenate and time as a serious 'seeker,' I've spent almost half of my time on earth preoccupied with how to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
For the convert, God always retains a kind of adventitious character; He is a God who--at least from our limited perspective--seemed to arrive at a certain point, with a Voice that was quiet and obscure but nevertheless insistent and unrelenting.
Once in a while it occurs to me to try to imagine what my life might have been like had this whole thing not happened to me. As the years go by it gets harder and harder to guess. This is part of what I call the 'convert vertigo;' how our lives become increasingly impossible to narrate without first talking about grace. I suppose this is a process that approaches infinity as we prepare for our own death, when our own historical story is no more and there is only the eternity of God.
You notice it in how you tell the whole story to yourself and others. I know I have written about this before, but it's amazing and liberating how the 'conversion story' becomes less a story about yourself, of something you did, and more a story about how God delights to relate to His creation in which you are only a tiny illustration, and a somewhat dingy and distracting one at that. You start to realize, through a curious internal cocktail of fear, vertigo, gratitude, and liberation what Paul was talking about in Romans 6:3, that "we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death." In an increasingly real way, I know that this clever but bothered, smart but unmotivated kid named Charles was drowned to death in a little font in a sleepy suburban church seventeen summers ago.
Well, let him rest in peace. I always carried him as a burden anyway. Am I nostalgic for him? As long as I indulge feelings like that I impede grace and become less myself. That's the mystery of Christian death and life.