Willie's response was simple, clear, and profound: "I've never prayed for the man, therefore I have no right to judge him."
I was knocked silent by Willie's response. Because he had never prayed for the man, he had no right to say a negative thing about him. I realized I had never prayed for him either, and in that moment, I shifted. I thought about my tendency to judge others in general instead of first offering a prayer, and not just for them but for me, asking for assistance in healing the knee-jerk response to judge another person. Willie's wisdom had opened a passageway for me deep into my soul. But this gift for wisdom did not come without pain. In his prior life, so to speak, Willie was a drug dealer, an occupation he fantasized about from the time he was a young boy. He told me that in his youth he had spotted a dealer holding a handful of money, wearing lots of gold jewelry and looking like a big shot. That dealer made such an impression that Willie began to imagine himself in that role, exchanging the gifts of $5 and $10 bills he would receive from his elders for single dollars so that he could experience the sensation of having a wad of cash in his hand. Soon, a handful of years passed and Willie was the drug dealer he had envisioned himself becoming. He told me that while he was a drug dealer, he experienced one of those rare moments in which he realized, as he held a wad of money in his hand, that he had fulfilled his fantasized image of himself. At the height of his drug life, Willie was consuming $3,000 worth of cocaine and heroine a day and dressing the part of the successful drug dealer. He still keeps photographs of himself draped in a fur coat and gold jewelry as proof of his previous self.
So how did Willie go from being in the entrails of the drug culture to a loved minister and successful body trainer? Willie had what's known as a "conversion" experience.
What's does conversion mean?