Heaven is calling. Just when you think all the drama is over after Easter, God wants your attention. Two biblical celebrities exemplify spiritual transformation: Saul (Acts 9: 1-20) and Peter (John 21: 1-19).
Before Saul’s conversion he was a mercenary hired by the Jewish bureaucracy to persecute The Way, the earliest known name for people later called Christians. On his trip to Damascus to arrest Jesus’ followers Saul was confronted. Saul and his companions heard the voice of Jesus, whom Saul was indirectly persecuting. The outcome from this miraculous event was that Saul changed. How ironic that the Saul who had been condemning Christians would take a new name—Paul—and become the most renown missionary in Christian history.
Now consider Peter, who was also an extremely influential Christian leader. The circumstance for Peter’s spiritual transformation involved Jesus’ post-resurrection appearance. The risen Jesus visited his friends as they were fishing. Peter was in the boat and when he realized Jesus was there Peter put on his clothes. You may wonder why Peter was naked in a boat with his friends but that’s a different story. The strange spectacle continued as Peter jumped into the water clothed (Peter seems to have done things backwards!). Some have called Peter’s behavior a reality break given his antics.
Peter’s reluctance to face Jesus is understandable given that Peter had betrayed his Lord on the night of Jesus’ arrest, just prior to the crucifixion. During the post-resurrection visit, Jesus told Peter to “feed my lambs, tend my sheep,” and again to “feed my lambs.” Jesus further asked Peter if he loved him, and Peter said “you know that I love you.” Jesus finally asked Peter to follow him, which suggests that Peter had fallen away.
We’ve considered the examples of Peter and Paul but what about you? People throughout history have reported dramatic encounters with the divine, some so fantastic that they rival a Hollywood script. The vast majority of people who convert to Christianity don’t exhibit theatrical religious experiences. But don’t fall complacent because a spiritual awakening is potentially significant. Your connection with God can involve monumental changes. A religious conversion is an inward miracle but not something that outsiders will necessarily understand. No matter what you think of Peter’s or Paul’s situation the point is that God can call someone at their worst and weirdest and give them a new beginning.
Be assured that God’s interface with you is as special as you are and that God’s calling can assume a myriad of forms. It isn’t helpful trying to mimic others’ personal experiences. As with everything else in life, your mileage will vary and your distinctive calling reflects your individualism. Reading about how God has appeared to others can be helpful if it encourages you. And yes, knowing how God deals with other people may inspire potential that you otherwise wouldn’t pursue.
Saul and Peter must have felt perplexed during their ordeals. You may also feel an odd mix of circumstances when God grabs your attention. Are you open to God’s calling? Are you listening? It’s difficult to sense God in daily living given all the distractions. That’s why it’s important to be mindful, which is a type of heightened awareness. Yearn for God’s presence and you may experience a life-changing vitality.