Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” Acts 9:1-6, (7-20)
Lately I have been irritated with everything. I have been irascible, difficult, quick to complain, and disdainful. God only knows what my issue is…literally. God only knows, because I have no clue. Lately I have been blaming it on menopause, and before that I blamed it on having too much on my plate, and before that on too many destabilized clients, and before that I was blaming menopause again. In the end, I have no idea why I am so unbelievably grumpy and unhappy, but that’s where I am and I am trying to be as accepting of myself as I can be, although I have to admit that I am getting tired of my bad mood.
Dear God, perhaps I am going through a second adolescence!
Okay…I got a giggle out of that idea, but in reality it is exactly how I feel. To me, adolescence is a horrible time when children are forced to live in the strange in-between…that space where they want to be an adult but don’t really know how, where they want to have adult privileges but don’t want adult responsibilities, and where their body takes on the outside appearances of adulthood while their mind maintains the worldview of a child. I remember it as a time when I felt entirely out of kilter, and I felt the same way when I watched my own children going through adolescence. The funny thing is that we cannot move out of our own childhood and into adulthood without traveling the road of adolescence. It isn’t just about our body’s need to mature; the entire process is a time of trying on new roles, new identities, new ways of thinking and behaving. I think that is a part of why moodiness and negativity are such harbingers of adolescence: in order to take on new ways of being, first we must become unhappy with our current way of being. In other words, everything has to suck before we are willing to let go of it and move onto something new.
Perhaps I am going through a second adolescence.
I am finding myself at that place in my life where I find myself asking “Why am I still doing this?” I ask that about my habits, about my career, about my decisions, about almost everything except my husband. Nothing seems to be as satisfying as it was five years ago. I thought that it was just my own inner musings (and a heaping dose of hormones in flux) but then my massage therapist asked me how well I was sleeping. I told her that I hadn’t been sleeping very well for a while, but assumed that it had to do with menopause (I blame it for everything these days) and then I asked her why she was asking. She told me that I felt wrong to her, that there seemed to be something that I needed to let go of, something way down deep…perhaps soul deep.
Her statement gave me pause and I thought about what she said for the rest of my hour on the massage table.
I wonder if Saul wasn’t in the same position as he headed to Damascus. Certainly he was doing what he thought was right, rooting out heretics (Christians) who continued to worship in the synagogues so that they could be brought condemned and executed for blasphemy. And yet on the way to Damascus he found himself struck blind, confronted by the same Jesus whose followers he was bent on persecuting.
The funny thing is that when Saul, later calling himself Paul, tells this story to King Agrippa in Acts 26, he says something we often miss. Paul tells Agrippa that when Jesus spoke to him:
I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It hurts you to kick against the goads.’ Acts 26:14b
“Kick against the goads” is a phrase we don’t use anymore, but it refers to an animal being goaded along by a sharp stick, like a cattle prod. An animal kicking against the goads was refusing to accept the prompt it was being given, refusing to move…and sadly risking a great deal of pain, because kicking at something sharp is a really good way to get poked really hard and maybe even cut or stabbed.
Essentially, Paul was admitting that Jesus had been prodding at Paul for some time and that he had been refusing the prompts of the Lord to move along, to change, to accept what he was being shown. Apparently Jesus had been poking at Paul for a while trying to get him to accept Jesus as Lord and stop persecuting the Christians, and when Paul didn’t listen, Jesus decided to go big and appear to Paul on the road to Damascus, striking Paul blind.
But wasn’t Paul blind the whole time?
After all, when something is prodding and poking at you, trying to get your attention, how blind do you have to be to miss it? All of us have been there, where something was obvious to everyone but us, but we just didn’t manage to see it. But then there comes to bigger blindness, when something keeps prodding and nudging us and we refuse to acknowledge it no matter how great the prompt. As counselors we sometimes call that choosing to be blind. Saul/Paul chose to be blind for so long that Jesus pulled out all the stops, simultaneously revealing himself to Paul and revealing Paul’s blindness.
Which brings me back to adolescence.
Adolescence is one long period of being goaded to change, to release childish self-focus and embrace accountability and responsibility for ourselves and others. It is uncomfortable and only a child’s dissatisfaction with the restrictions of childhood can make them let go their old ways of being and embrace their emerging adult self.
Could it be that I am in a second adolescence? Is God goading me to let go of my current ways of being, ways of being that are no longer useful or meaningful, ways of being that don’t reflect my advancing age, my changing role in my own family and in my community? Is God letting me know that I’m not really attending to His will like I should? I don’t know. But my lousy mood, my bad attitude, and my generalized dissatisfaction with my personal status quo just might be God trying to tell me to move on, to go where He is leading me.
“And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored.” Acts 9:18a
I am waiting Lord. Help me before something big shows me just how blind I have become.