Daily Devotional for Small Group Discussion: Not So Fast
- When have you experienced a pause—a slowdown, a gestation—before a transformation occurred? What did you do while you waited?
- How do you understand the role of Ananias in supporting Paul’s conversion? Who has supported your transformations throughout life?
- What community conversions have you witnessed—in your church, in your family, in your neighborhood? How did new life begin to develop in that community?
Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; and leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank. – Acts 9:8-9 (NASB)
We like to think conversion comes quickly, that transformation is a smooth process, that new life happens like magic, with a burst of Spirit power. This is, after all, how it works in the movies: In one scene our heroine is a wealthy socialite; in the next she’s given all she has to the poor.
But in real life … not so much.
True conversion, profound change that starts on the inside and is manifested on the outside, takes time. Repentance, like any U-turn, requires a significant slowdown before the change of direction. New life comes in fits and starts, and only after a gestation period.
There seems to be no conversion more dramatic than that of Saul, the anti-Christian zealot, to Paul, the legendary apostle. A flash of light, a fall, an authoritative voice, and—voila!—from persecutor to proselytizer in the blink of an eye.
But … not so much.
Between ego-driven certainty and humble salvation, Saul spent three days cocooned in darkness. He was stuck until a terrified but obedient disciple named Ananias restored his sight and received him into community. Only then did his new life truly begin.
Lent’s 40 days are designed to be a holy container where new life can take root. But if 40 feels daunting, commit yourself to 3 days of prayer to get the process started. That amount of time worked pretty well for Saul—and for Jesus, too.
However long it takes, O God, make me new.
Vicki Kemper is the Pastor of First Congregational, UCC, of Amherst, Massachusetts.