On May 20th, in Bangladesh- we studied one of the more famous passages of the bible: Acts 9: 1-31… The conversion of Saul.
For this post– it is the beginning (verses 1-9) that I want to pay attention to (in particular the bolded text)
“But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. 4 And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless,hearing the voice but seeing no one. 8 Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.“
It is one of the more famous passages… and yet when I studied it this time I couldn’t pull anything significant from it to take away. My experience though, reflecting back on it, gets a little eerie.
For the sections in italics:
Now I see that passage and I think of how Saul relied on his friends to lead him when he couldn’t. I think of how Saul was angry and afraid of the early followers of Christianity and so he persecuted them, maybe because it was unfamiliar– isn’t that what often scares us? Let’s be honest- Jesus wasn’t any ordinary guy, he was a radical, a life- changer. And these followers of his- well the authorities probably thought they were radicals too!! When you see a radical on the street corner- shouting things out into the world for all to hear– what is your first reaction? I’m willing to bet its not– “Gee that’s probably a really nice guy there! He’s probably just heard all about this new way of living that is better for all of us!”
Those are both good things to take from a passage like this. Lean on your friends; it’s an especially good message for me since that is still an area I find hard. Community– that’s a thing, but not one that everybody is comfortable with– and speaking from experience, if you are the person uncomfortable: give it time, it will never be perfect but it will get easier. If you are the community: don’t rush it, and don’t try to force someone to be all over a group of people just because you think its good for them, you might be right, but pushing it on them too soon isn’t helpful. And the other message: don’t be scared of something and start discriminating or looking down upon something just because it’s unfamiliar- take the time to get to know it better and you will see the light without having to “see the light”.
Now the eerie part:
3 days later after studying this passage about Saul going blind… I embarked, along with a subset of our team, to the Rajshahi Regional Camp that took place in Dinajpur. We still don’t know if it was an allergic reaction to something or what but on this trip my eyes started secreting some weird fluid while I slept (and throughout the day but it wasn’t as much of a problem when my eyes weren’t closed for extended periods of time) and then it would harden and basically I woke to find my eyes effectively glued shut. During the day my eye was red and itchy and still secreting something that made my vision extremely blurred.
Now obviously I wasn’t full- on blind. However not being able to open your eyes on command when that is something you’re used to being able to do- is still pretty scary; and for all intensive purposes my vision was impaired because it was blurred by this fluid that wouldn’t go away. Looking back I find this an eerie parallel to Saul going blind, and even eerier (is that even a word… more eerie?) because we had just studied that passage a few days prior.
I don’t think that I am a murderer like Saul– but I’m not completely unlike him in some ways too. I get uncomfortable and sometimes scared by things that are unfamiliar to me. For years I have built a tough facade so people might know I’m uncomfortable but they won’t know I’m scared… but makes me wonder most is: what am I so scared of? I was reading about the experience of someone else in a crossing cultures situation and it made me think… maybe I’m not scared at all but jealous. I’m jealous that the Spirit seems to move so vehemently through these people, and I’m worried that it won’t move that vehemently through me. Which when I think about it is foolish– because I’ve felt the Spirit move within me before, I shouldn’t need to worry about not being moved by it– because I have been… but I’m not immune to insecurity.
It was also a scary time of learning to trust. Saul had to trust his friends. I had to trust that if my eyes got really bad then the team (and more specifically my staff) would take care of me. They wouldn’t let me blindly stumble down the road- they would lead me by the hand.
Being blind is scary… or at least to the extent that I’ve experience it it is… but it is also a time to learn… and learn I did.