By Rev Heather den Houting, General Secretary Uniting Church in Australia, Queensland Synod
I have always found the story of Paul, of being blinded so that you can see, absolutely extraordinary – both in a personal way but also for us as a church. We all need to understand that sometimes the hand of God has to be really obvious, really powerful, because we are so caught up in our own path of identity and purpose.
I often ask this question – But to what end? Why am I doing this? What do I seek to achieve? It’s a wonderful way of just taking a deep breath and testing myself and the decisions I make against the deeper purpose that God has. And often, if you just keep on asking that question – To what end? – that does test and challenge you until there are no excuses, and you have to follow the path God is guiding you to travel.
There’s another blindness which we all sometimes face – when we are too frustrated, too enraged, or too fearful to see clearly. Sometimes we are blinded to the truth because of how we feel. In these circumstances, we are called to recognise our blindness.
As disciples of Christ, disciples in reconciliation with each other across the church, I think we need to test our vision, what we think we see, and what we hold precious and certain in order to allow the important questions to be discussed. We need to allow our identity as individuals and as the corporate church to be tested. We need to be brave enough to have those challenging conversations and follow those paths that might truly transform us. We need to let go of what we think we see so that we can more clearly see where God is leading.
I have been saying to myself (and others!) recently – We need to approach that which we love with clear minds and soft hearts. We need to be prepared, as Paul was, to let go of things which are precious to us. In my own life, in this time of transition, I have needed to do some really significant work on putting down some precious things that have been part of my identity and my purpose. I’ve had to lay them down at the foot of the cross and seek God’s wisdom. I have needed to take that moment to pause, to ask God where I am going and where I can best serve. I am very deliberate and intentional around many aspects of my life and work, but I recognise – sometimes you just need to put that stuff down!
I think the challenge and the gift of being made blind, of no longer being certain and secure, is that you have to pause, you have to do things differently, and you can’t rely on what you think your strengths and capabilities are or what you have always done before. The important thing is not to panic but to take that moment of pause, to breathe and to be with God and also take the time to be with each other.
My prayer as we continue the pilgrim’s journey together is that we all approach that which we love with clear minds and soft hearts. May we recognise that we only ever see partially at best, and may we set our assumptions and certainties down at the foot of the cross and ask God to guide us home.