I'm having a bit of my own Damascus Road experience right now. Lord, I hope this doesn't mean I'm on the wrong track....
Damascus Road was the place where Paul was blinded by the Lord for three days. Paul was on a bit of a journey of his own at the time, pursuing Christians for persecution, carrying orders from the leaders of the Pharisees to exterminate this Christian "threat." Everywhere he went, his eyes were open to the growing faith all around him; he was looking for followers of this "way."
Then he is blinded. Some say it was to disorient him, to create a scenario in which he had to stop. You cannot stone a man you cannot see; you cannot tie up a man who you do not know is right in front of you. Some say it was to show him the glory of God. That the God who comes in a blinding flash also comes in a healing hand, in this case, a man who was brave enough to approach the Christian killer and restore his sight. Some say it was to heighten his vision. Once he could see again, he'd treasure all he could see. Or he'd see with new eyes.
We're not really told why God decided to blind this man on the road to Damascus, of all the things God could possibly have done to Saul. But here's what I understand:
When your vision is taken, your other senses sharpen to make up for the deficit. Paul could no longer see the Christians around him, but he could hear them. For the first time, he had to listen to their words. Not just the buzz words he was looking for as an excuse, but all of their words. He heard more than words like "Christ" and "new way;" now, he heard the story of Christ among the people. Paul could no longer see the Christians around him, but he could feel their presence. He could, for the first time, understand tangibly the spirit of God. He had a sense of what it meant for God to be among the people, the way the air changed for those who worshiped Him. A sixth sense, you might call it. Just that knowing that something is different in that space, whether you can explain it or not. He couldn't see them, but he could smell a new aroma. The odors of a new faith, which were not as pungent as he might have imagined. No longer was it burning meat and incense; now, it was bread and wine. It was community and joy and peace and promise. The stale air of the Synagogue gave way to the new air of the new covenant. And he could even taste it - a whole new world opened, void of dietary laws and restrictions, a plethora of opportunity before them.
Without his sight, Saul could finally see what Christendom was all about.
Which brings us to my current predicament. I've lost much of my hearing, temporarily. (And you know you're a theology lover when your first thought is Damascus Road.) Two nights ago, I developed a severe earache in both ears. Three hours and a large rush of fluid later, I fell asleep only to wake up to all the signs of a ruptured eardrum on both sides. Thankfully, it's just a massive infection and no rupture, but my hearing is M.I.A.
Throughout the past few months, I don't know what I would have done without hearing God. I have had worship music on almost every day, letting the words and the rhythms pour over my soul. I have taken everything captive to the word spoken over my life, trying to hear that word again and again so I would know what I'm doing here. I have held many moments in the whisper, that gentle quiet word of God in my heart. It's been a beautiful time, really.
When my hearing diminished, my first thought was: what am I supposed to do without the whisper?
But here's what I understand: when I'm not just listening to the God who speaks to me, I have the chance to see Him in my world. I can open my eyes and see all around me the evidence of His presence. The things He's doing here. When I'm not just hearing Him, I have the chance to feel Him. Tangibly. To feel what it's like to have Him living in me in the way He's promised in that word I have so desperately held onto. To know what it's like for Him to sit in my heart, to work through my hands, to speak through my lips. When His whisper is nearly silent, I, too, have a sense of a new aroma. The air just smells different. It feels different. I come to understand the holiness all around me, the atmosphere of what God is doing which extends so far beyond my flesh. And I'm getting a taste of the new life.
The doctor says my ears should clear up, and with it, my hearing, in the next several days. In the meantime, it's still not easy. But I'm using this time to learn to more than hear my God. To give myself more than the whisper to hold onto.
Unlike Saul, I don't think I'm on the wrong journey. Quite the contrary. The chance to engage God with all of my senses only intensifies my passion for this season in my life. It lets me know with more than one word that this is really happening, this is really real. And it reminds me to have my quiet moments, sure, but to continue to engage the God who exists outside of my own self and keep in touch with the God who is doing something in me, with me, through me....all around me. May I never forget the whisper, but may I always remember the God of so much more.
Welcome to Damascus.