You know that guy named Paul who wrote a number of the chapters of the New Testament in the Bible? I’ve kind of been quite envious of him, especially in the past five years or so, and I want to explain why.
But first for those who don’t know Paul’s Biblical story, Paul was originally known as Saul. For years, it was said that Saul persecuted anyone who followed the teachings of Christ, sending many innocent souls to prison and even to their death. Then one day, on the road to this place named Damascus, he’s suddenly blinded by a piercing light at which point a profound voice comes out of nowhere and asks why Saul continues to persecute Him. Saul drops to his knees and asks who the voice is. The voice responds and says “I am Jesus, the one you continue to persecute.” Saul’s friends hear the voice as well and are speechless. Saul, on the other hand, asks what Jesus wants, who responds by telling him to go into the city of Damascus where he will receive further guidance. For the next three days, Paul remains without sight and chooses to not eat or drink because of it. Meanwhile in Damascus, one of Jesus’s followers, this guy named Ananias, is also approached by Christ, except this time it’s through some type of a dream or vision during which Ananias gets instructed to go to the house of a man named Judas, where Saul will be waiting and praying, and once there, he’s to lay his hands upon Saul.
When Saul eventually arrives in Damascus, he’s led to the home of Judas. Upon arrival, he too receives some type of dream or vision that shows Ananias coming to lay hands on him to restore his sight. When Ananias finally arrives at Judas’s home, he lays his hands upon Saul as instructed, and immediately something akin to scales fall from Saul’s eyes, restoring Saul’s vision. Saul is then baptized, takes on the name Paul, and from there goes on to spread the love of Christ to everyone he can for the rest of his life until his death, enduring great hardships, persecution, and some “thorn in his side” that’s never revealed what it is, along the way. But, through all of it, he constantly speaks of how much joy he has and how blessed he is, even in the midst all his pain and suffering, and even just before his life comes to an end through what many speculate to have been a beheading.
So, in a nutshell, Paul was once a terrible person doing terrible things to countless blameless individuals, who suddenly gets blessed, gets healed, and spends the rest of his life constantly feeling the awesome presence of God within him as he endures great pain and hardship from those he once worked alongside, until the day he dies.
So, why all the enviousness of this Biblical figure? Well, for several decades, I too did terrible things to countless blameless individuals too. And then in 2010, all that changed when I began to feel “blinded” through one health issue after another being piled upon me, none of which were to depart as each year passed into another. I still felt the presence of God though enough to keep going and enough to keep spreading joy in the midst of my pain. But then one day in early 2015, I no longer felt that presence, and it wasn’t because of anything I did either. Other than a few scarce days ever since, I haven’t felt the presence of anything Greater than me and instead been left with feelings of sorrow and despair on most days. Feelings that have left me feeling totally “blinded” from the presence of God. I have begged and pleaded God to remove my “blindness” year after year, to no avail. In the process, I’ve often thought of Paul and become envious. Envious that Paul hurt so many individuals in his life, yet only experienced a few days of “blindness” before it got restored. Restored to a level where he remained in touch with the incredible Grace of God, even as he experienced such pain and persecution up until the day he died.
So, what do I long for? I long to wake up and no longer feel “blinded”, “blinded” from feeling the presence of God’s joy, because I know it’s there, although I’ve been unable to feel it no matter what I do. All of which has left me with great envy at times of someone from long ago, a figure from the Bible, who, even in the midst of great pain, hardship, and persecution, still felt joy, joy from no longer being blinded from feeling God’s ultimate unconditional love, something I’ve come to accept over time will only come from God himself. So, I wait for that with hope, and continue to pray for my own Saul to Paul conversion…
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson