“As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.” (Acts 22:6-11)
This is Paul’s testimony. Of the time he had an encounter with Jesus Christ. What is called the “Damascus Road experience.” Many years (20?) after this incredible, and rather odd event, he still tells it in supporting why he believes and trusts in Christ, and why He will not change his mind. It is a foundational aspect of his faith. He tells it as it was, as it happened, and expects it to be important to those hearing him…. just as we should today.
It’s been said that regardless of theological arguments, a person cannot be talked out of an experience. One could argue that God does not do things like this; appear as a bright light, strike you down off your horse, blind you for days, etc… but God can and will always do as He pleases. And nothing that He does needs anyones theological approval or validation.
My encounter with Christ is considered rather unusual, or at least not normative. It was in my home. I did not see Jesus as a bright light, or as any form at all. But that He came to my home and touched me during my “sleep” (I was passed out actually), and that I awoke as a new man, can never be taken from me. The result of this event, this encounter with Christ, was obvious to all who knew me. There was no church, no music, no minister, no Bible verses directing my decision, no altar call. Just me calling out to God, and Him coming into my life and changing me. In the next days, weeks, and months ahead a number of strange things happened. Times when I heard God’s voice. I saw visions with the eyes of my heart. I encountered the Lord at numerous times and in various ways. This “encounter” propelled me into ministry, and landed me in a 3rd world country only six weeks later; where I’ve now lived for nearly 38 years.
I’ve never had a donkey speak to me, advising me that I was making a terrible mistake, but we know of a prophet who once experienced it. I never saw a burning bush out of which a voice spoke to me, but we know of a mighty man of God who once did. I never saw a person on a beach with eyes of fire, and an appearance that took the breath of life right out of my lungs, and landed me face down in the sand, but we know of an Apostle who experienced it. I’ve never been swallowed by a giant fish to spend three days and nights in its belly, but we know of a prophet who experienced it. I have experienced a laser light of God coming down from the sky and piercing my heart… but then, that’s just too weird, so we’ll just move on.
The point is that God can and often does strange –or what might be considered by us as– “unorthodox things.” And while such events cannot always be validated as theologically sound and acceptable, they are not therefore unacceptable or not of God. And such things become a part of our story, our testimony. And our testimony is ours. It’s our experience. We were there when it happened! And no one can talk us out of it or take it away from us. And it is an important and useful part of our story and ministry to others.
Like Paul, who was recounting his story yet once again, to a large and hostile audience, we too should be repeating our testimony to others. How we came to seek out, long for, desire, and finally to meet the Lord. People need to hear our testimony, because God uses it to intersect with their lives and experiences.
I wonder if sometimes the oddity of how God reaches and speaks to us is necessary? Or, necessary for some? I mean, Paul clearly was not going to be won to Christ by a theological argument! But, getting knocked off his horse and blinded for three days… well, that got his attention!
What’s your story? Are you sharing it with others?