Today, January 25, is the observance of the conversion of St. Paul. The imagery that Michelangelo provides is quite provocative to what had to be an intense interaction between Paul and Jesus.
For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.Galatians 1:11,12 NRSV
The story of Paul’s road to Damascus always reminds me of my conversion to Christianity. There were many instances in my life when people would preach, teach and insist to me that Jesus was real and that Jesus died for me. When I contemplated these things in my heart, I did not think about the things that anyone told me. I remembered an experience that I could not explain. The experience ended up dictating the road I would eventually take.
One day, when I was married, I had an argument with my husband which led to me wanting to get out of the house. I was sitting at a stop light at a busy intersection. The light turned green. I did not move. My eyes kept staring at that green light as if it was pulling me in and holding me in place. It was strange, like being in a trance. Suddenly, I heard the incessant sound of a horn. The noise seemed to bring me to my senses but before I moved forward, I looked to my left to check the traffic. As soon as I looked to the left a Mack truck ran the red light.
It felt like I must have sat there for several more minutes realizing that I could have been hit by that speeding Mack truck. I drove to the nearest convenience store to buy a pack of cigarettes (I smoked for over twenty years). While I was pulling a soda out of the freezer a man appeared next to me. He started talking before I had a moment to realize he was talking to me.
Ma’am, I am not out to bother you. I just followed you into this store. I am not a stalker, I promise. I am the man who was honking at you at the light. I followed you to tell you that I am sorry for honking at you and I will never honk at another person for as long as I live. My mother is in the car right now still yelling at me for honking at you. I am so glad you did not pay attention to my honking.
I don’t know what you believe. I am not a religious man. I don’t even go to church. Ma’am, you would not have made it. I came into this store to tell you that I think someone “up there” is watching over you.
I was almost speechless. The more I go over that event the more I believe in supernatural power. Not only did one person witness something they could not explain but three people. That’s three testimonies. I tried to imagine the “what if” I had gone through that light. The driver’s side of the car would have been hit. I agree with that man. I would not have made it. I would have died on impact.
Not only would I have died but that man would still be living with what his actions caused. How amazing it is to me that grace spared all three of us that day!
In truth, even though my life was spared that day, I don’t spend everyday thinking about how wonderful life is. No, I complain about life’s invariable inconveniences and I tend to get mad and have mood swings. I also have moments, like today, when I think about conversion that I am reminded to be more thankful.
If I was a supernatural power, and I took the time to consider sparing someone’s life, wouldn’t I want some thanks for it? Yes.
Conversion, for me, was not instigated by someone reading scripture to me. It was not instigated by someone telling me that Jesus loved me. It occurred because of life experiences. Personal experiences between me and God.
Life does not bequeath the same deck of cards equally. Life is unfair and civilization can be filled with injustice. History, as we know it, has been filled with stories of unfairness, inequality and injustice. How does a person like Anne Frank hide in an attic, for the sake of sparing her life, to eventually lose her life due to hatred? And what did she leave behind? Words that remain an inspiration to anyone who reads them.
I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.Ann Frank
On this day of observance in the conversion of Paul, I reflect on the beauty that has always been. May my eyes, spirit and heart be open to more of that beauty each day that I live.