All this time Saul was breathing down the necks of the Master’s disciples, out for the kill. He went to the Chief Priest and got arrest warrants to take to the meeting places in Damascus so that if he found anyone there belonging to the Way, whether men or women, he could arrest them and bring them to Jerusalem.
He set off. When he got to the outskirts of Damascus, he was suddenly dazed by a blinding flash of light. As he fell to the ground, he heard a voice: “Saul, Saul, why are you out to get me?”
He said, “Who are you, Master?”
“I am Jesus, the One you’re hunting down. I want you to get up and enter the city. In the city you’ll be told what to do next.”
His companions stood there dumbstruck—they could hear the sound, but couldn’t see anyone—while Saul, picking himself up off the ground, found himself stone-blind. They had to take him by the hand and lead him into Damascus. He continued blind for three days. He ate nothing, drank nothing.
~ Acts 9:1-9; “The Message”
When I became a pastor a little over 10 years ago, my mother-in-law gave me a wonderful gift- a GPS for my car. It was ideal for someone starting out in ministry, because it would enable me to visit members of my congregation with ease. Or, to be more accurate, given my terrible sense of direction it would ensure I could find members of my congregation.
But the one time I didn’t care for that GPS was when I decided to go in a direction the GPS deemed incorrect. The times I actually knew where I was going, but the GPS wanted to take me in a different direction. Then, it could get pretty annoying. I’d drive along, and the GPS would repeat “recalculating, recalculating, recalculating…” I’m convinced the voice in the GPS grew more and more annoyed every time it said it. If it got really bad, the GPS would insist, “As soon as possible, make a u-turn… make a u-turn…” At that point, I’d press the mute button and fend for myself.
There are times we have a pretty good idea where we’re going. When we don’t want a voice interrupting and recalculating our steps. We don’t want anyone to insist we make a u-turn. This is as true of navigating while you’re driving as it is of life, in general. We can make our own decisions, we can take care of our own problems. We don’t need help. We have it figured out, and we don’t need to be redirected, thank you very much.
This is all well and good, until we come face-to-face with God, who will often insist we recalculate, or that we make a u-turn. God likes to meddle in our business, and it can be really annoying. God will whisper in our ear, or tap us on the shoulder, or, when that doesn’t seem to work, knock us off our feet or slam a door in our face.
Take Saul, for instance. He never would’ve believed he needed a change in direction. He was just about the most unlikely person to whom Jesus could have appeared. Up until that moment, when he traveled the road to Damascus, Saul had devoted considerable energy, time, and resources to killing any and every follower Jesus he could get his hands on. Yet God sent a flash a blinding light, and handpicked Saul to spread the gospel.
God’s presence came at Saul, knocking him off his feet in a flash of blinding light. Isn’t that often what faith is? Faith is being knocked off your feet by something irresistible. It’s being drawn into relationship with a magnet-like force. Even though you don’t quite know what hit you, you want to change your life.
In its essence, having faith, following Jesus might be nothing more and nothing less than the ability to turn around, to turn toward God. To move from one place to another, to be regenerated. Held in the full measure of love’s redeeming grace, we can begin anew, and we can turn around to behold the new road upon which we’re meant to travel.
Let’s pray together:
God of Blinding Lights,
Whether we like to admit it or not, we need you to meddle relentlessly in our lives. Knock us off our feet with a blinding light, so we’ll truly know you, and understand how fervently you long to know us. Amen.