She blinded me with… blindness (?)

I can only imagine what it was like for him:
A reformed murderer. In his mind, he had to remember when he had used his power, prestige and influence to keep people away from Jesus. Did he see that his motivations then, as always, were these mixed bags of selfishness and altruism, purity and corruption?
Paul had been snapped out of his symbolic blindness by literal blindness. When Jesus’ spirit confronted him, he lost, for a while, the ability to see. Some time later, he finds himself utterly changed, and facing someone who had a lot in common with the man he had once been.
In Acts, Chapter 13, Paul confronts Elymas. And in this man who sought to keep the truth from Roman official Sergius Paulus, the apostle must have seen himself. After all, Paul too was politically positioned, he had opposed the gospel, even murderer those who proclaimed it.
The biblical account even hints at this past. Verse 9 identifies him as “Saul, who is also called Paul.” I searched several translations. Interestingly, none of them emphasize the idea that he used to be called Saul. In the present tense: he is both Saul and Paul. To me, this suggests that Paul, despite his transformation was not better in any sense than Elymas. By extension, none of us are better than Saul/Paul or Elymas, either. But perhaps this is a digression.
The important thing is the writing of the gospel is constructed to remind us that the man who was then-called Paul had once been called Saul. And when he had? He was a man much like Elymas.
And though we pay so much attention to all the blindnesses that Jesus had cured, it is important to remember that God sometimes causes us to be blind. He did it with Saul. And for Saul this blindness changed everything.
caravaggio-inspiration-st-matthew_large

The bible tells us that the Holy Spirit came upon Paul. And after this, Paul pronounces that Elymas will be blind. Probably our feeble and small little human ant brains can’t fully grasp all the things that it means, for the Holy Spirit to come upon us.
Many of us believe that the Holy Spirit came upon the people that wrote the books that would eventually be collected together and called the bible. One of the things we assert, for lots of good reasons, is that the Holy Spirit brings with it a sort-of perfection. And at the same time, leaves the writers who they are. This is why we can say, for example, that the book of Mark is simultaneously perfect and yet also thoroughly the product of the person who wrote it: the book named after Mark is at the same time divine and also wholly unique to Mark’s perspective.
Similarly, the idea that Elymas was blinded, can be seen as God’s idea and Paul’s idea: the outcome of The Holy Spirit’s interactions with Paul. There is more to be said, here. More to be said about blindness, more to be said about Paul, and more to be said about Elymus. But this is also, I think, a good place to pause, and reflect. More later.

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jeffsdeepthoughts

The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

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