Now as [Saul] was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” 5 He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” Acts 9:3-6, NRSV
I grew up in a church (not Lutheran) that placed a lot of emphasis on what is sometimes called a “Damascus Road” type of conversion experience. This is an experience in which one has some life-changing revelation like that of St. Paul. Motivated by such an experience, one then “accepts” Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Following such acceptance, one lives a life totally within the boundaries of the straight and narrow pathway of God’s will, never to stray into the territory of sin again. And, of course, from then on, life becomes “happily ever-after”. (Or at least that’s the way it was interpreted in my mind during those formative years.)
My “Damascus Road”, though, has proven to be much more winding and fraught with detours than that traveled by “the least of the Apostles”. It is a road upon which I expect I will not reach my destination until the day the Holy Spirit completes its work of sanctification in me.
I think many of us have the same expectations, or perhaps “hopes” is a better word, concerning our health and fitness. We have some revelatory event, shortness of breath when climbing the stairs, our favorite outfit no longer fits so well, if at all, or our doctor informs us that our blood work shows some danger signs. Motivated by that revelation we decide that from that moment on our lifestyle will be different; no more junk food, less time in front of the TV or binge-watching YouTube videos. Starting tomorrow we will exercise for at least 30 minutes every day and take the stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible.
In reality, though, outside of some near catastrophic event like a heart attack or stroke, that conversion experience is short-lived. We find that the road to health and fitness is plagued with detours and before long we are off track, headed either back to where we started from or pursuing an unhealthy obsession with a goal like weight loss. The truth is, the journey to a healthy lifestyle is, like sanctification, a lifelong process. We need to offer ourselves some grace to continue even when we sometimes become “backsliders.”
The Lower Susquehanna Synod is offering us the opportunity to travel that road together through this blog and other wellness related resources. Please share your thoughts, comments, and questions as we journey together on the Road to Wellness.
Next installment we will look at an often-overlooked aspect of Paul’s experience and ours; the role of Ananias.
Peace be with you always,
Pr. Jim Person