This is a special time of year for me. It was five years ago that I came back to the church after declaring myself an atheist in my youth. I spent almost 30 years stuck in unbelief before finding my way back.
Today, I want to talk, in general, about the journey. You see I believe that each of us as a “Damascus Road” experience, maybe not to the intense degree Saul had in the first century, but each of us has an undeniable encounter that changes the path of our lives. Mine happened on Interstate 8, between Phoenix and San Diego, but it could happen anywhere. The place of the encounter is not quite as important as the content of the encounter. It may set up future growth, or may give certain, permanent direction in life.
My encounter was a gentle nudge to open my mind from total disbelieving rebellion that there must be a God, something I had not admitted since 1982. My wife and I were separated by work and hobbies, and the country was coming to grips with the new political landscape under President Obama. I wondered if the truth found in the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution could have been mere men or inspired by a higher being. I was nudged in the direction of believing that God did take part in the creation of this country. It was like seeing an informational sign at the side of the road, saying “God was here.”
The key to these encounters is reading those signposts. The picture below shows a clear Tennessee morning with criss crossing jets taking people to work and play destinations.
What the picture doesn’t show what is going on with each person. Are they drifting along, listening to music secure in their salvation, or secure there is no salvation? Are they ready for an encounter? Could they recognize one if it happened? In scripture, we are given a picture of a father who was seeking and encounter to help his son. In Mark 9: 14-22 this father asked Jesus to heal his son, who has been possessed of a demonic spirit, if he can. Jesus replies, “Everything is possible for one who believes.” The father answers, “I do believe;” then you can hear his mind catch up with his mouth and says the best thing possible, “help me overcome my unbelief!”
Every now and then we have unbelief, either through trauma or apathy. We need to be open to those encounters along our “Damascus Road” to bring us back to alignment with Christ. It could be the first encounter or the 100th, anytime Jesus decides to touch you, is a time to hold dear and to listen to what he has to say. He won’t always use his voice to tell you. Sometimes he uses other people, the news, or your facebook feed to give you something to ponder, or to nudge you in a direction.
On that original Damascus Road, Saul became Paul, and changed from a hate-filled, murderous madman, to one of the most prolific advocates for Jesus Christ possible. Will you listen like he did?
Lord, help us with our unbelief, and give us signs, nudges, words or impulses to help us keep on your path. Give us opportunities to help each other. Let us be your light in this world. In Jesus name, Amen.