Galatians 2:1  Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas.”


          When you read the book of Acts, it sounds for all the world like Paul is knocked from his horse on the road to Damascus and three days later gets on it again and begins to convert all of Asia Minor.  But that’s not exactly how it went.  Here in Galatians, Paul reveals that there were 14 intervening years, years we know very little about.


          Paul doesn’t seem to be the lay-around-and-wait kind of guy.  In all his dealings he is proactive, sometimes bordering on the reckless.  He is anxious to do the work of God, which is why he was marching up to Damascus in the first place…to persecute Christians and purge the Jewish faith of this heresy.  But God stops Paul in his tracks, changes his mind on the spot, and then allows 14 years for Paul’s change of mind to become a true change of heart.  You don’t go from Pharisee to freedom overnight.


          God is patient and willing to wait for us to be fully ready to do the job God has called us to do.  That can be frustrating.  I felt a call to ministry when I was 14 years old, but I was 35 before any church called me “Pastor.”  There was a time of training before God could let me loose in a church.  There was formal training in seminary, but there was also life training where I learned to be gentler with both myself and others and where I dealt with life’s baggage.  It was hard training and it was hard to wait.


I imagine those 14 years between Paul’s conversion and deployment were filled with searching.  He would have to re-learn and re-interpret the Scriptures in light of his new knowledge.  That must have been difficult for one who prided himself on knowing and enforcing Scripture to the letter.  He had to learn that it wasn’t about the letter.  It was about the Spirit.  He had to wrestle with his past…the deaths of innocents executed through his efforts; the condemnation of those whom God had blessed.  He had to earn the trust of those who called him “enemy” before he could serve by their side.


          All of that helps me cope when I am frustrated by blocks to callings I have felt.  “Why would God give me this direction and then leave me hanging?” I think.  “Did God suddenly realize I’m of no use after all?  Did I misunderstand?  Will God not use me?”  Paul’s time of waiting reminds me that it will come.  But it may be a year or two.  Or fourteen.  If my deployment is delayed, it is for the best.  God will open the door when I am ready to walk through it.


Timeless God, train me as you will for the work to which you have called me.  Amen.



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