Friday, September 13, 2013


Last night, my man and I were having one of our usual unusual conversations. We tend to wander down the lane of wacky conversation topics like most people casually converse about stuff like, "What's for dinner?". 

Last night's conversation centered around what three people we'd like to meet in the Bible, excluding Jesus.  I need to clarify that we "excluded" Jesus because, in our opinion, He's automatically included.  Period.  The one person we want to meet most from the Bible is Christ.  End of story.  So, our conversation ventured from there to who the next three people would be, in no particular order.  Somehow, we wandered that twisting little convo into a discussion about Paul.  (I don't know exactly how we got there, we just did..that's how we roll)  Paul didn't make either of our "top three", so maybe we were discussing why he didn't make it and then pretty much ended up talking about how awesome his life was.  If you've never really studied Paul just to be studying Paul, here's a good recap. (this dude lived some crazy, obedient, spectacular, revolutionary kind of life, people)

Did you know Paul's teacher was Gamaliel?  He mentions it in the 22nd chapter of Acts. Did you know that THAT Gamaliel is still considered to be one of the greatest teachers of Jewish law, ever?  He was given the title of Rabban, which means he was given the title that only seven have held as truly great teachers of the law.  Paul was taught by this great man of Jewish law for probably 3-4 years.  Paul was both a Roman and Jewish citizen, which gave him great leeway and opportunity not afforded to many Jews of his day.  Being well educated, a dual citizen and taught by someone who was afforded great respect opened doorways in Paul's life that can loosely be compared to today's celebrities.  He would have been well respected.  Someone others would have listened to and placed importance on what he had to say, whether he was right or not. Can you picture Paul as a real man, with great pride, wonderfully educated, well respected? 

Paul, who was originally called Saul, wasn't always on the right side of God's will.  We know that he was present at the stoning of Stephen, whose death brought Christ Himself to His feet.  Paul was there, cheering and applauding with the rest of the crowd.   He was, as most know, a great persecutor of Christians.  His knowledge of the Scriptures did not open his eyes to truth.  No matter how much knowledge he had stored up, no matter how many respected him, he was still blind to Truth. 

Then, he takes a trip to Damascus.  On the way, he meets Christ.  Like, he literally meets Christ, the Risen Lord.  The moment is so spectacularly transformative, Paul loses his ability to see.  So, on his way to persecute more Christians, probably shaking his ostrich tail feathers, Paul has a moment.  He has a moment like no other before or after.  He was blind, and yet he could finally see.  I wonder what that was like for him?  I'm not talking about the usual stuff.  I'm talking about on the inside.  Can you even imagine the blow to him?  Every second of his life, up to that point, has been nothing more than preparation for THAT moment, but he didn't know that.  Every second that he believed what he believed was all shown to be nothing more than preparation for Truth that he'd been too blind to see.  We tend to make that all awesome and uplifting.  I'm going to say that maybe that wasn't the case for Paul immediately.  I'm going to say that humility took pride and basically whipped it's hind end.  I'm going to say that as overwhelmed as Paul was, he needed the next days of blindness to get his groove back on. 

He'd watched people be murdered, had even encouraged the act, for believing in Christ.  And then Christ paid Saul a visit.  He even gave him a new name.  What could that possibly have been like for him?!  Not in some glorified way, but in the feet hitting the pavement (dirt in his case) kind of way.  Paul (Saul) was a REAL man, with REAL feelings and REAL connections to other REAL people.  And in that moment, everything changed.  It was all made new. 

You think he ever missed the old life?  That he ever thought about how easy things had been for him?  He was human, no matter that we often try to make him more than that.  He was just a guy like Peter.  Just like Peter, who could walk on water with Christ, and still deny that he'd ever known him.  So, yeah, I think Paul was a little disoriented for a minute (or lots of minutes).  I think if he'd had his sight when that first meeting was all over, he may darn well have run as fast as he could the other way.  So, God gave him a little time to think things through with a heart that could see clearly, but eyes that were blind as a bat. I think that was probably scary, right?

So here we are.  An educated, respected, slightly cocky guy who has met his nemesis and come up lacking and proven more wrong than trying to divide by zero, not to mention blind.  Where's this guy to go?  Guess where Christ sent him?  To a Christian named Ananias who knew just how badly Paul (Saul) had been persecuting Christians.  He knew all about Paul, because when the Lord tells him to go find him and restore Paul's sight, Ananias raises an objection that this guy has been persecuting "thy saints", to which God replies that Paul is his chosen vessel for bringing the Good News to the Gentiles.  (Wonder what Ananias thought when he heard that?!)  Ananias obeys God and hunts Paul down at the "street which is called Straight", and delivers God's gift of sight back to Paul.  (Wonder if they had a long conversation and how that went down?)

Paul immediately begins to preach.  He's been changed and everything in his life has aligned to this moment.  I still can't help but pause and wonder if Paul ever stopped and thought, "Wow.  THIS is my life. I'm scared, humbled, awed, and seriously nervous.  I hope I don't mess this up."  (He was, after all, just a human being who feels like we all feel.)  Regardless, he took his faith and his love for Jesus and preached and preached and preached. (One guy even fell out of the window because Paul preached all night long without stopping. I can only imagine the guy got sleepy and fell out the window, which didn't so much as deter Paul.  He ran down, healed the guy and ran back up to keep preaching.)

I think the thing that we took away from our conversation last night was that every life has a purpose and every single life leads every single person to places and spaces they can't begin to fathom they'd ever be in.  If you'd have told Paul he'd die for his love of Christ when he first set out for Damascus, he'd probably have laughed at you, then maybe had you stoned a little. It's both comforting and scary to know that God's got this.  God is in absolute control and He's never surprised, blinded or wrong.  Paul's entire life was preparation for a destiny he could not begin to fathom and a love affair with Christ that is rarely matched in either testament of the Word. 

Looking at people in the Bible as real people helps me to remain in awe of God and I hope that never stops.  There's something about truly seeing them as plain old people that lifts God up to His rightful place as Sovereign and Ruler of all.  Only He knew where Paul's life would take him and only God knew what preparation needed to take place for Paul to even be on that road to Damascus.  Seeing people in the Word as flesh and blood helps me see God and His heart.  Remembering that Paul was just a guy helps me to remember that every extraordinary thing that Paul ever did had nothing at all to do with Paul and everything to do with the awesomeness that is God.  Trying to see the ordinary in Paul helps me to see the extraordinary that can only be God. 

As a side note:  If this guy didn't even make our top three, can you even IMAGINE what the lives of the ones who did were like?!  Awesome.  People who say the Bible is boring just haven't been reading it.  In case you give a hoot, my top three were:  John the Baptist, King David and Moses.  (I flipped back and forth between Moses and Elijah.  I'm still torn. You see the dilemma, right?) 

What three Biblical people would you like to meet after we get to love on Jesus face to face?  I'd like to know if you're willing to share.  :)

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