In Numbers, there's the story of Balaam, a sorceror-type, and his donkey. I won't go into the rest of it, but Balaam sets out on a journey the LORD doesn't want him to, and an angel stands in front of him with a sword to kill him. Balaam doesn't see thee angel, but the donkey does, and twice turns aside, then lies down in the road. Balaam beats the donkey fiercely, and then God opens the donkey's mouth.
"Why are you beating me ? Haven't I always been a good donkey? Have I ever acted like this before?"
And then Balaam sees the angel, and the angel explains everything to him, and he goes about his business.
Have I ever acted like this before?
Pretty important question.
How HAVE you acted before? Because that's pretty much going to determine the response you get today, for good or for bad.
I wonder what my father said that day that I missed hearing him speak. I didn't hear him speak because it was in a Sunday School class of his age group, the 60+, and I was low 30s. He had brought me to hear him speak, and I knew that; but as I looked around, I saw I was the only 30s guy there, and I commented on that. He gave me a funny look, and asked me if I wanted to go to a class my age; and then he took me there.
So I don't know what he said that day.
But I wonder: even if I had heard him speak that day: Could I have heard it? I just don't think i could have gotten the message. See, my father was a mean old man. And yes, in his old age, he was working on finding peace with God, and by the time he died twenty years later, I could talk to him about spiritual things, because he was dying and we all knew it. And the worst part of the meanness just wasn't showing up at that point. But on that day, now thirty years ago, there was no way I was going to be able to hear a spiritual message from a mean old man. So I played the youth card, and got out of there. I know it disappointed him, but I just didn't care. I wasn't gonna listen to spiritual words coming from a man who had made fun of my pants that morning, who had been a tyrant to me his entire life.
Now, I can play the donkey scene over in my head; sometimes I'm the donkey, sometimes he is; depends on how I want to cast the story. It works both ways.
I'm NOT, definitely NOT, arguing against a late-in-life conversion. All I'm saying is, if you wanna be treated like a good donkey, you better have been a good donkey all your life. And there's more to that, but all I'm gonna write now.