Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. (In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they glorified God because of me. – Galatians 1:18-24 ESV
In my college days, shortly after I came to faith, I entered a very strange period of some days – I can’t remember how many – when the heavens went bronze and God’s voice went silent. I didn’t know what was going on and I was bewildered and alarmed, journeying through a dark night of the soul and a faith-crisis that I just hadn’t seen coming. I recall walking to the computer lab one night and stopping in the middle of the parking lot to jump up and down in frustration, pounding out my helplessness into the pavement.
That night I bumped into Karl, a friend who I had not seen for some time. He was a heavy drug user the last time I had seen him but now he was a believer in the Lord and full of joy. I remember talking with him for what seemed like hours; I don’t really remember what we said but I remember walking out of the computer lab and out of my faith-crisis into the light of belief. God glorified himself through my friend Karl that night.
I don’t think we can over-estimate how much the Lord loves the art of redemption, how much he loves turning lives upside down – or better said right side up – and causing both the believing and unbelieving worlds to gape in wonder. Of course, often his redemption of our lives appears, at least on the surface, routine. The person I was before Christ claimed me wasn’t – on the surface – that much different than the person I was afterwards, even though inside everything got turned on its head. Not everyone saw it at first but he re-arranged my hopes and dreams, busted out the walls, and had me dancing on the ceiling. I was a little bit of the bull in a china shop once things got going, but to the outside observer I had just “cleaned up my act” a bit. In reality I had begun to stop “acting” at all, as slowly but surely Christ began to turn me into the person I really was in him, and to manifest himself in me – a progression still underway to this day.
But sometimes God takes the one we would least expect, the sinner of a thousand dark days with blood on his hands and hatred exploding in his heart, and God conquers, conquers, conquers through the absolute might of the blood of Jesus and the power of the resurrection from the dead. He embraces such a one in the almighty love of our suffering savior and not only claims him as his own but also entrusts him with a world-altering mission. This is what God did for and through Paul, and just the rumor of that amazing, artful, ironic, almost hilarious conversion caused God’s glory to be lifted even higher, and it still does.
I love that about our Lord.