Not So Fast
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.