[A slightly edited version of a column by Bill Lewellis, published in 1998]
A three-story perspective casts a little light for me on God’s continuing visitations in our lives.
The first story is the conversion of St. Paul. During the first century, after the death and resurrection of Jesus, Paul's "business as usual" included search and destroy missions, seeking out those who were counter-cultural, those who followed The Way, Christianity's original name. While on one of those missions, Paul was blinded by a light, fell to the ground, and heard a voice: "Why are you persecuting me?"
"Who are you?" Paul asked. "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting."
That experience may have informed Paul’s theology and a morality. My soundbite version of Paul’s theology is: "Because Christ lives within, you are a new creation." Then, Paul’s morality: "Therefore, be who you are. Live as a new creature. Put away the old man."
The second story is more fanciful, about the Christ within us recognizing himself unformed, yet unborn, in the disguises of the world.
A little boy wandered into a sculptor's studio and watched the sculptor begin to work with a large piece of marble. He soon got bored and went on his way. Months later he returned and, to his surprise, where once stood only a large block of marble, there now stood a handsome, powerful, Aslan-like lion. "How did you know," he asked the sculptor there was a lion in the marble?" "Before I saw the lion in the marble,” the sculptor said, “I saw the lion in my heart. But the real secret is that it was the lion in my heart who saw the himself in the marble."
In line with that, a Maryknoll missionary once said: "Many years ago when I came to this faraway land, I came to bring God to the people. I soon discovered that God was here before me."
The third story of God’s continuing visitation changes often. For me, it is different today than it was 40 years ago or even 40 months ago. It is a wonderfully different story for each one of us, our own story of how we’ve been blinded by the light, our own defining moments.
Episcopalians don’t generally think of themselves as having been born again. We're more likely to describe ourselves as having been born again and again and again.
I've grown accustomed to thinking in terms of defining moments rather than born again experiences. Cut me some slack with the word "moment." I use it as "day" is used in the story of creation. A defining moment might be a sudden insight or a two-year journey that in hindsight occasions a renewed or rediscovered understanding of who we are and who God wants us to be.
May we all continue to have insights, dreams by day and night, "aha" experiences and "uh-oh" experiences that somehow shape our lives, defining moments from which then our transformed lives themselves tell what we have seen and heard.