Spoiler alert: The following is another flight of PD imagination. I often like to try to fill in Scripture’s ‘silent gaps,’ those so-intriguing times when a ton of movie-worthy things are happening, but which are not recorded for us. So… As the young and ambitious Pharisee, Saul of Tarsus, is plunged into 72 hours of darkness and total, terrifying confusion, long-buried questions that have nagged at him begin to force themselves to the forefront. His dreams are deeply troubling concerning his role in the persecution of those who followed this Jesus of Nazareth. Were those imprisonments and tortures and killings truly God’s plan? Was he truly righteous in his zeal to carry out the annihilation of these troublesome groups? With this, began in earnest his radical transformation into the Apostle Paul we know from Scripture. During Paul’s several-year absence from the public eye he had visions and was instructed by the Holy Spirit. I can almost hear Paul’s repeated line of questioning: “But what about . . .?” along with the repetitious answer: “It’s included in Jesus.” All of Paul’s rabbinical teaching, understanding of the Law of Moses, the Torah, the prophecies about the Messiah to come, all his preening pleasure at the social status of his family, the leadership of Judaism, the obeisance proffered him in the streets as he passed, was shown for the shadow that it was. Each new revelation brought him a fresh humbling, a further shattered pride. The haughtiness in his voice at the beginning of this ‘school,’ became more and more tender, accepting, submissive. His old nature gave way to his new man as the joy of his new birth, his new inheritance, rose up in his soul like the warming sun of a summer morning. As he made his way back to Jerusalem, it was like he’d experienced metamorphosis. The man who left was not the man who returned. He was now ready to preach the Good News. His eyes were opened. His heart was full. He was filled with new zeal.
Not unlike Paul, it is easy for us to take on life as an onrushing series of 24-hour segments. Our calendars fill up. We double-book. We over-commit. We demand that our brains, our bodies, submit to whatever appointments/responsibilities we’ve accepted. The big picture shrinks. Our world, too. Prioritizing becomes a stress point. We come to imagine the spiritual life as something to be fitted in somehow among all life’s other ‘yeses.’ Prayers hollow out, becoming rote. Deep joy gets replaced with shallow, forced-smile, Hallelujahs. We need metamorphosis. The truly amazing bit? “It’s included in Jesus!” Can’t wait to see y’all tomorrow, 10 AM, 4 PM. PD