Before Paul met Jesus, his name was Saul, and he was a Pharisee. He spent his life studying the scriptures and debating. One less-discussed component of his training is that he would have spent a good bit of time studying the ways of seers. A seer is steeped in the knowledge and traditions of those who have had visions from God. In 2 Corinthians 12:1-4, Paul talks about someone he knew who had particularly strong visions. Before Paul met Jesus, he had prepared his whole life long to receive something extraordinary from God (Griffith-Jones, 23).
Then, something most unexpected happened. He was on his way to Damascus to stop a blasphemous sect from spreading their message when his vision finally came. You can find the story in Acts 9.
“Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2and 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. 3Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ 5He asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ The reply came, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.’ 7The men who were travelling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. 8Saul 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. 9For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank” (Acts 9:1-9, NRSV).
Can you imagine studying your whole life to have a holy encounter, only to be scolded and blinded? It was a humbling experience, and it changed his heart. Paul went from being the greatest prosecutor of the young Christian church to the most influential evangelist of his time.
This story must give us pause. As dedicated Christians, how are we preparing ourselves to hear God’s calling on our life? Are we giving the time, study and prayer to recognize God’s calling on our lives? And, when we do receive direction, are we willing for it to be different than we envisioned?
I sincerely hope everyone has a fantastic summer. We all need it! I also hope that your summer is filled with an exploration of your spirituality. May God’s mission of reconciliation, love and grace be the path you travel as well. And, in case God surprises you, my prayer is for you to hear it loud and clear without falling off your donkey like Paul.
Grace and Peace,
Griffith-Jones, Robin. The Gospel According to Paul: the Creative Genius Who Brought Jesus to the World. HarperOne, 2005.