The Conversion of St. Paul
As I was reading those portions of the book of Acts assigned for today’s commemoration of Saint Paul’s conversion, the line that stood out was in the account of Paul pleading his case with King Agrippa while at the same time trying to convert him. He does this in the guise of explaining why he was seized in the Temple by the Jewish authorities and nearly killed.
He describes himself as an adamant persecutor of the followers of Jesus, not only in Jerusalem but in other cities as well. Then he shares the experience he had on the way to Damascus, when he saw a searingly bright light and heard Jesus speaking to him. It is what Jesus says that captured my attention. “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It hurts you to kick against the goads.” (Acts 26:14)
“It hurts you to kick against the goads.” I love that line. It’s so full of compassion, even as it also gently reprimands.
It surely does hurt us to kick against the goads of God’s plan for us. And Jesus’ words tell me that Paul was harnessed to the Way of Jesus Christ long before his vision. He had been, by his own account, the most zealous of Pharisees, living a life completely dedicated to God. And the crazy sect of Jesus followers really got under his skin. He fought tooth and nail against them. He wanted to wipe them off the face of the earth entirely. And all the while the strength of his response was because he himself was being called to become one of them. Jesus finally had to directly intervene. He had to knock him down and blind him for awhile.
Those things we rail against most strongly – those things toward which we have the most energy, even when that energy is expressed as loathing and anger (and fear) – often point us directly to that for which we were born. We struggle. We lash out at the objects of our revulsion/attraction. And it is the very strength of our protest that incriminates us.
It takes a special kind of grace, a strong and potent dose of it, to topple us over when we are locked in such a profound struggle with something we simply cannot find it in ourselves to embrace. Today, as I commemorate the conversion of St. Paul, I will remember in my prayers all those who are locked in similar struggles. May the God of Life push them over, so that they may follow the deep calling of their hearts.
Laurie Gudim is a religious iconographer and writer living in Fort Collins, Colorado. Some of her ions can be viewed at here. And check out her novel at https://smile.amazon.com/dp/B074G137V8/ref=smi_www_rco2_go_smi_g2609328962?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1&ie=UTF8
Image: By Paul Lacroix – http://www.gutenberg.org/files/10940/10940-h/10940-h.htm, Public Domain, Link