Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. (Acts 9:1-9)
Throughout my life as a disciple of Jesus, I have been drawn back to the story of Saul’s (Paul’s) conversion. His dramatic encounter with the risen Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus is extremely different from my own experience as a follower. And as Paul became for me a hero in faith, there was a time when I felt like I had been cheated out of a life-changing conversion. But, maybe it is a blessing that I hadn’t first been a persecutor of the church of Jesus, and a willing accomplice in murder and mayhem.
Paul’s road from sinner to saint was accompanied by a blinding, dramatic experience. And, praise be to God, such a path is available for those who need it. It took me a while, though, to get over my disappointment in my more gradual conversion experience. But God used Paul to help me also see the value and validity of that road, as Paul wrote to another believer in Jesus, the young pastor Timothy:
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, for the sake of the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I am grateful to God—whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did—when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you. For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands. II Timothy 1:1-6
I love that Paul thanks God for the fact that Timothy’s pathway to faith wound through the nursery, rather than down the dark road toward death in Damascus, and ended at the same point; a belief in and love for Jesus.
Wonderful God, You do indeed call each of us by name. Thank You for having the right way to reach each of us, where and when we need it the most. Through the saving grace of Jesus I pray. Amen.