Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏩ ⏹️
Blind Paul, illustration by Tobias Mayer, 2022
And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
— Acts 9:3-5
Paul's conversion experience is considered so pivotal to the rise (some would say the birth) of Christianity that it is mentioned no less than three times in the book of Acts, here in the third person, and later in Paul's own words as he tells his story first to the Jews of Jerusalem, And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?1 and then to Herod Agrippa, And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.2 who, greatly impressed with Paul's testimony, responds, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.3
Paul's awakening is certainly a powerful story. It is a confrontation that turns his attention first in on himself: what on earth am I doing to myself? and then outward: what on earth am I doing to the world? Sometimes we all struggle so hard to do something we started off thinking was the right thing, and even in the face of all evidence to the contrary we continue in our stubborn way, as if we must prove a point. It is no wonder that the gospels, especially Mark, put so much emphasis on the lame being able to walk, the deaf to hear, and the blind to see. The beautiful irony of Paul's story is that he is struck blind by his bright light experience, but in fact it is the first time he can see clearly. He was blind to the truth, now he is blinded by the truth. A period of adjustment is needed before he can see with his new eyes.
We all spend a lot of time walking through life, believing we can see what is front of us, but actually not seeing at all. We may see people, but we don't see their pain, nor their joy, nor anything about them more than what is presented on the surface. We see with assumptions and guesswork, never really taking the time to let the mist clear. If that were to happen, all of a sudden as it did to Paul, we too would likely go blind for a period of time. The truth is often too much to take in, all at once. We should all be on that road though, as to be anywhere else these days is to be quite truly lost.4
1 Acts 22:7
2 Acts 26:14
3 Acts 26:28
4 I'm not suggesting everyone must convert to Christianity—that would be unnecessary, and quite frankly offensive. What I am suggesting is that we need to convert, or transition, from the systemic self-centredness that traps us and controls us, to a more natural, even spiritual other-centredness.