Summary: When things aren't going the way they should be in our lives, the Lord is there; working, changing, helping us see straight.
Scripture holds absolutely no power unless is has a message for our lives. We come to the scripture in our context. We have issues that we want resolved. We have questions we want answered. We have doubts we want wiped away. And so, when we find ourselves in these moments, many of us often sit down, open our Bibles, and begin searching for answers. We look for the real, raw stories that seem to relate to our own stories and those stories and then we begin to pray for answers. And yet, there are some stories that just seem too far-fetched; we feel like we can’t relate at all, we think there is no message there for us, and so we turn the page and keep looking.
Such is the case, I believe, with Saul’s conversion on the Damascus Road; it’s so dramatic that it puts us off. It’s so much easier for us to just let this story stay an ancient story that isn’t really all that relevant anymore; like the Tall Tales of the American Frontier. We come to this story, and others like it, and as we read, we cannot help but ask; did this really happen to Saul? Do things like this still happen to people today? Why hasn’t God ever appeared to me in this way? And then we start thinking about the stories we have heard. Occasionally, we will hear people talk about some miraculous transformative experience that is so completely amazing it’s almost unbelievable. Such stories can raise even more doubts in our minds. If we believe that God truly intervenes in such blinding, definitive ways, then why has it never happened to me or to thousands of others? Why does this happen so rarely? Does God pick favorites? Am I really in such a “great” state that God doesn’t need to “turn me around” in such a miraculous conversion?
Indeed, it’s very easy to come to this story of Saul’s conversion and to decide that it really doesn’t speak to our lives. To begin with, we’ve never encountered the Lord in such a way. But even beyond that, we aren’t anything like Saul was. We aren’t religious zealots “breathing threats and murder” against all our opponents; at least I hope not! But here’s the thing; we have all been on wrong paths. We have all done something, or maybe many things, that have been harmful to ourselves or to others. We have all been headstrong, stubborn, blinded by our own ambition, selfish to meet our own need, caught in addictive behaviors, and oblivious of the true cost to others or to ourselves.
I think you all know what I mean. On some level, we have all been on the wrong path. We have all been close-minded. We have been stubborn. In some way, at some point, we have all acted like Paul was acting as he stormed his way toward Damascus; we have felt such seething anger, we have harbored deep hatred, we have acted on irrational impulses. So, the truth of the matter is, Paul’s Damascus Road story is not so far from our own life and experience. And, just like Paul, eventually, we open our hearts and our minds to discover our many errors. It may seem unbelievable as we read some ancient book, but this really is the “stuff” of everyday life.