There was a particular point during my years as a Buddhist when I was struggling with the question whether to give up the vows I had taken as a Buddhist nun and to return to lay life. Aggravating my struggle was the sense that I had somehow irrevocably blown it, that I was hopelessly confused. I was irritated that there I was, thirty years old and still floundering about what course I should be following. It took me a while to realize that I was seeing things from the absurd point of view that somehow one ought to determine the correct course of one’s life by age 20 or so and that, thus, my floundering at age 30 was indicative of some major flaw.
I experienced a different version of this difficulty more than a decade later, when I was discerning the call to train as a spiritual director. I struggled with the sense that it was too late for me to be doing this. I looked at others involved in the ministry, who had seemed to know much earlier than I what their path was. Who was I at this late date to be deciding this was work I could engage in?
The story of the conversion of Paul is a good antidote for both versions of those feelings of inadequacy. Paul spends years persecuting and killing Christians before he finally, with God’s intervention, finds his way. God didn’t look at Paul and say – too late, you should have gotten it right earlier. God didn’t look at Paul and say – can’t rely on him, he’s too confused.
Some of us take a little longer to get it than others. Some of us follow a less straight path than others. But God invites all of us and, when we are ready, however long that takes, God say, welcome. It’s never too late.