Encounter: Find a quiet place to spend a few minutes away from distractions where you can clear some space to read, listen and be expectant. The passage this week is Acts 9:1-19 and describes the beginning of Saul’s own deconstruction journey from Jewish religious leader to Apostle of Christ’s church. Listen or read through 3 times and underline any words or phrases that strike you as important to remember.
Encounter: Find a quiet place to spend a few minutes away from distractions where you can clear some space to read, listen and be expectant to receive something from God. The passage this week is Acts 9:1-19 and describes the beginning of Saul’s own deconstruction journey from Jewish religious leader to Apostle of Christ’s church. Listen or read through 3 times and Underline any words or phrases that strike you as important to remember.
“I am able to see things now that I didn’t realize I was missing.” A friend of mine shared this with me after a recent cataract surgery. Both of his eyes were covered with a thin layer of what experts say are proteins and fibers in the lens that begin to break down, causing vision to become hazy or cloudy. Thankfully with medical advancement surgeons are now able to give us new sight.
New sight is also being made available in our life with God. There are many things in our pilgrimage through life that cause a clouding of what would normally (in a perfect world) be very clear. Like cataracts that form slowly over the course of years, we become accustomed to how things look in front of our very eyes. Whether it’s something we inherited or a breakdown that happened over years, we see through a lens that distorts, diminishes, and dulls our most essential sense, our ability to see.
To see something clearly leads to understanding and a proper response to the reality and truth before us. But like people who refuse to go through cataract surgery because they fear the darkness they may experience, we fear the dark nights of unknowing that cause us to look at what is no longer clear about our understanding of life with God which leads us to ask honest questions and process our doubts. But I wonder if there is a value to be found in the darkness.
Growing darkness eventually awakens us to the fact that we can no longer see. What we used to see naturally is no longer available to us. It took darkness to bring us to a new light. In Genesis, a new day begins at sunset. Each new day begins with new darkness. It is much the same way in our understanding of who God is and how we journey through this life on earth.
So many of us learned as a child to be afraid of the dark and yet, as Brian Zahnd writes, ““Darkness is the canvass for the new light of creation…a dark night of the soul does not have to be the end of a faith journey but can be the beginning of a new journey that leads deeper into the mystery of God.”
Like an eye surgeon taking out our old lens, there is a moment of darkness when it is as if makes a tiny cut in the front of your eye to remove the scales of the cataract and puts in place a new lens that not only clears the vision of everything in front of us but makes way for a brighter light, a brighter dawn. God can use times of darkness to strip away what distorts who he is so he can light up a new pathway to Him and his will for your life in front of you.
God transformed the Apostle Paul’s life with a not too subtle beginning for his pathway. “Suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground a heard a voice say to him. Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Who are you, Lord? I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting, now go into the city and you will be told what you must do.” Saul is struck blind with scales over his eyes. But it is the 3 days of darkness that God uses to deconstruct Saul into Paul. It took darkness to transform Saul, an abusive, angry religious man to Paul, the most influential disciple to Christ’s church.
This Sunday we will look more closely at how our dark nights of unknowing can be opportunities and seasons for the reconstructing of a new, more clear vision for our lives with God as we ask the question, “What scales need to fall from our eyes to follow Jesus into a new dawn?”
Deconstructing with you,
Reflect: What are those areas of understanding where you could use more sight? Where do you feel you have “scales” that distort, diminish or dull your senses to who God is and how this connects with the questions and doubts you have about life? How does the Saul to Paul story in Acts 9 encourage you or cause you to fear?
Encourage: To find encouragement through our doubts and dark nights of unknowing, we are invited to seek, to learn in order to see with new vision. We recommend books from our brothers and sisters in the faith who have wrestled with this topic the most. Here are a few recommendations:
When Everything’s on Fire - Faith forged from the ashes
Faith in the Shadows - Austin Fischer
Reflections on the Existence of God - Richard Simmmons
Prayer in the Night - Tish Harrison Warren
Faith & Doubt - John Ortberg
Gather: In your small group or with a friend share your experiences with your own dark nights of unknowing and how these times and seasons have changed your faith or perspectives about how God works in this life. Talk about what would be helpful on this journey that at times has us in the dark and how the creation story in Genesis 1 gives us new insight into how God may do his most creative work in our darkness.