“ ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. 16 ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. 17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’
This is Paul’s retelling of what happened to him on the road to Damascus, when Jesus appeared to him and his life was changed forever. Before that fateful trip, he had been Saul, a Pharisee who went around collecting and persecuting Christians; afterwards, he was Paul, an inspired missionary and witness for Christ who planted many churches and spoke to many people of what had happened to him.
In these verses, Paul is retelling his conversion story to King Agrippa, after many days of court trials and hearings, to prove his case of Christianity to the king. His conversion tale, however, is but a small thread of his larger defense: that he is still of sound mind, and that he firmly believes what he is saying. He wouldn’t consciously choose to speak blasphemy, because he had once been the arm of the law as far as persecuting blasphemers was concerned. Now he believes that what he has witnessed proves Christianity is not blasphemy.
A Personal, Modern-Day Example
This kind of story seems to belong only in the Bible–certainly, people don’t hear God speaking to them anymore (at least not sane people). Because of this mindset, some people have passed this story off as a metaphorical device, an oratorical embellishment, perhaps. I beg to differ.
When God Spoke Straight to Me
I was at home, convalescing after my disastrous 8-month service as a middle-school teacher, regaining the physical and mental strength I had lost during those trying months. Not the least of my troubles was my consuming depression, which literally left me unable to do anything except what absolutely had to be done; in the last days of my teaching career, I had fought to get out of bed, fought to stay on my feet for 7 hours, fought to regain control of classroom discipline. I had almost no motivation to do much of anything except to be with the people who loved me best–my parents, my boyfriend, his parents, and my friends at church and in the community.
Though I felt buoyed by my supportive net of people around me, I still was at a loss as to what to do with my life. Since teaching was gone, cut away like some diseased gangrenous flesh from the rest of me, what was I going to become? What was I “going to do when I grew up,” whenever that might be? This terrible indecision about my future, which I had never experienced before, was maddening and depressing in the same moment.
I spent a lot of time on my laptop in bed in those days–though we had no wireless internet at home, I had plenty of things I wanted to work on. But it seemed I had no energy to do much writing or thinking, either. That is, until I opened a file I hadn’t touched in almost a year.
It had been just a dribble of a story, about 30 pages worth of aimless thinking about a role-play character I had developed in the days when I still thought positively about my future. It seemed much too hopeful for me now. And yet, as I read over it, I felt a strange tug in my chest; as I reached the end of the story, where the train of thought ended abruptly, I had a thought which did not feel like mine: “Continue the story.”
I resisted this idea. Continue this terrible, piddling story, born of a mind trying to escape its confines of schoolwork and career prep? Bah. It was too much to do, and I was tired. I wanted to sleep, not write.
Then came the thought again. “Continue…the story.” Much firmer and clearer this time, and it brooked no argument. Sighing, I began to type a few sentences. Then, reading over what I had just written, I fixed a few words, and wrote a few more sentences to explain what was going on.
This pattern continued not just for the rest of that day, but for the next few weeks, and then a month afterward, and even several months afterward. I continued the story, expanding and editing, and as I wrote the story, my life began to resume a more normal course. I had something to do again, something to work for again, though I wasn’t quite sure what it was becoming.
As regular readers of my blog might have guessed, what I am speaking of is the beginnings of my first novel, which is now well over 150,000 words. That command, to “continue my story,” was the impetus for me to push the accelerator on my life and move it forward, however tentative and inching its progress.
Looking back, I do believe God spoke to me to encourage me in launching a new creative project–after all, He had made me and knew that my true joys lay in nurturing new ideas to life. Maybe my story is not quite the conversion tale that Paul’s story is, but based on this experience, I don’t think God’s lost his touch for reaching out to His children when they need Him!