Finding Spiritual Rebirth in Paul’s Damascus Moment



Ananias restoring the sight of Saint Paul, 1631, Pietro De Cortana



Why Damascus Moment?

Well, speaking for myself, I had become lost in a cycle of shame, anger, and doubt. My life as an atheist was largely an effort in lashing out at a world I was unhappy with. I yearned for the seeming happiness and stability of others. I knew of several atheist/agnostic friends who appear happy – but my unbelief was more a manifestation of my own self-loathing.


And, yet, there I came to the moment where all my doubt about God and his Church melted away in an instant. Years of resistance gone. As with many converts, the story of Paul the Apostle’s conversion spoke to me at a deep level. A man filled with vengeance, pride, and desire for status humbled and saved by God’s call to repent and love him. Paul set out on the road to Damascus with motives of hate and violence. It ended with a desire to repent and preach the Gospel. Death and Rebirth – the ultimate metaphor for the Christian life.


That story spoke to me in a deeper way because before I had used this allusion for my own selfish purposes. My life as a hard-charging young professional led me to have a standard script of stories to impress the interviewer. One of which was alluding to my own “Road to Damascus” moment. This profound Gospel moment would be reconfigured for whichever position I was interviewing for. Charming.


“Tell us why you’re interested in foreign policy?” “Well, you see, when I was 13 my parents got a subscription to The Economist magazine and it was a Road to Damascus moment for me.”


“How did you get interested in cybersecurity?” “Great question and I have to say that getting broadband internet access at my childhood home in 2001 was a Road to Damascus moment.”


And so on and so on. I was manipulating a sacred event for my own personal and selfish use.


And so, after my return to the Church, I kept going back to that story for solace and kinship. I had lived a life that was anathema to Christ and his Church, but the door was open for redemption and penance. The next two years would be life-changing. The initial wave of euphoria that comes with Actual Grace would subside and the real work would begin. There would be slip-ups and defeats. But I was and continue to walk on a path where I know God is leading me. In those defeats over the last two years, my faith itself never wavered. God came to me and revealed himself to the point I know of his love within my bones. No evidence to the contrary will cause me to waver.


I can only speak as a layman and from my own personal experience. Yet, I know there is a larger thirst among my generation of those under 30 for a relationship with God. However, we live in a morally relativistic society which shames such yearnings. And thus, we discount them when we experience it. Instead, we look in directions of what is spiritually trendy at the moment. Organized faith, particularly the Abrahamic, requires surrender. In that surrender comes profound personal growth. Yet, our culture shaped by an adversarial news cycle has rendered the initial concept of surrender as weak. Self-Empowerment preaches victory of self, not the sacrifice of self to other.


And, oh, how wrong that is. The God of Moses is calling us back home, to a place where we can rest. Allowing us to have a moral call and code to anchor our lives. We receive the free love of God, who will offer repentance and forgiveness in our stumbles. A God who promises everlasting life. All for the price of us asking.


Pride is a wicked thing. Unfortunately, my generation is being reared in a culture which conditions you like one of Pavlov’s dogs to resist God’s call. Yet, I have hope. I never thought I could ever surrender to Christ. Paul, a scion of the Jewish aristocracy and far wiser than I could dream of didn’t. And yet, God continues to offer it to all – the lowly and the strong. The thirst we all feel for love and something more is God’s call to us. The lies of moral relativism lead to an eventual and inevitable path of darkness. It leaves enough light in the margins to thirst for more. As if the easy road ever produces greatness.


Will we have the strength to accept God’s love and have our own Damascus Moment?

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