I wanted Damascus Road, I got a dripping tap

Ok I did want one, a Damascus Road experience, but I don’t want one now.

As a teenager each time I had a vaguely spiritual feeling or God-thought I always thought to myself  “Now! Now, maybe, I will have my Damascus Road experience. I will be suddenly fixed on God, just like Paul was, and I will know for certain that he exists and that he loves me and I will love him. And it will all be simple.”

Sorry folks, but God rarely works like that.And in my experience when he has to shout really loudly as he did at Paul then something is wrong because you can’t hear him in other ways, speaking as the still, small voice in our day-to-day. (And let’s face it the murder and persecution Paul was enthusiastically engaged in was  very wrong and needed a good shouting.)

More importantly faith is not like that. You don’t wake up in the morning and BELIEVE! without doubts, fears, questioning. Even if you do wake up like that and manage to pull it off for many years that point will come where you say – “I don’t know what I believe any more, I don’t even know if I believe any more.”

Even Jesus shouted out “Why have you forsaken me?”

And that’s what it feels like when you first doubt or second doubt or third doubt – you get where I’m going.

But I have good news. What I got instead of Damascus Road was a short anecdote about an old lady someone had met who said something along the lines of “Some people get their faith like a gushing river, I got mine like a dripping tap”. That dripping tap is how I have received my faith.

Slowly, over the months and years, you read something that chimes, you see something that rings true, you survive something horrendous and God is with you and your faith bucket gets filled up drip by drip. I think this might be more common than we are led to believe and it’s enormously comforting to know that it’s been this way for people before you. That not everyone is a perfect Christian reborn in an instant of earth shattering glory.

You might get Damascus Road, you might be filled with certainty and joy every moment of your life. And if you do congratulations! I admit to a small amount of unChristian envy.

But you might not.  And my experience is that the dripping tap of a relentlessly pursuing God is just as effective in keeping you going in times of doubt and times of certainty as that Damascus Road is.


One response to “I wanted Damascus Road, I got a dripping tap

  1. I think you’re going too far when you describe Paul as an enthusiastically engaging in murder. I don’t know of any evidence for this. As usual EP Sanders takes a balanced view of the topic:

    “That he persecuted the Christian movement, however, is not in doubt. he says this of himself in Galatians 1:13, 22; 1 Corinthians 15:9; Philippians 3:6, though the details are completely missing. It may be that his early career as a persecutor consisted of persuading synagogues to administer to those who accepted Jesus the severest punishment a synagogue could mete out – the thirty-nine lashes that he himself later suffered.” Paul, p.9

    Paul’s involvement in the persecutions of Acts, which include capital punishment but not murder, are historically dubious. Not least because Paul himself says in Gal. 1:22 that he was unknown in Judea before his conversion.

    Calvin Roetzel says:

    “Paul’s persecution of the messianists did not include capital punishment. The description in Acts that Paul engaged in murderous persecution of followers of ‘the Way’…is unhistorical…Neither the high priest nor the Sanhedrin had the authority to administer capital punishment in Paul’s lifetime” Paul: The Man and The Myth pp.39-40.

    In Conzelmann’s commentary on Acts he says of 7:58B: “The last part of this verse servers as a redactional link as Luke introduces Saul, who was not present in the original martyrdom of Stephen.”

    On Acts 22:3 Conzelmann says “The autobiographical retrospect has been formulated to fit the situation”

    Even a conservative scholar like Martin Hengel has this to say about Luke’s account of Saul’s persecutions:

    “Luke is evidently exaggerating somewhat here to heighten the drama in his account, a practice of which is he fond elsewhere”. Pre-Christian Paul, p.67

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