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Past imperfect

From the May 2005 issue of The Christian Science Journal

Put Yourself In Saul's Shoes. Bearing the same name as the famous king of Israel, you are well-educated, a Roman citizen, a strict interpreter of Jewish law, and on fire to prevent a new form of Judaism from contaminating the faith. The rabbis authorize you to seek out those who follow the "Way," as it is called and to put a stop to it. You pour all your energy and zeal into this mission. Then in the midst of one such effort, you have a dramatic vision of the risen Christ—the spiritual leader and founder of the Way. You suddenly realize that everything you've believed about the Way is wrong, and that people have suffered greatly as a result of your actions.

For Saul, the impact of this revelation was so strong that he was literally stopped in his tracks in the middle of a road and struck blind. He then had to be led to his destination, the city of Damascus. As he prayed about his encounter with Jesus, Saul had to come to terms with his past in order to go forward. Mary Baker Eddy, who read and studied the Bible throughout her life, described his situation this way: "Saul of Tarsus beheld the way—the Christ, or Truth—only when his uncertain sense of right yielded to a spiritual sense, which is always right. Then the man was changed. Thought assumed a nobler outlook, and his life became more spiritual. He learned the wrong that he had done in persecuting Christians, whose religion he had not understood, and in humility he took the new name of Paul." Science and Health, p. 326.

If you're familiar with Paul's story, you know that his blindness was healed through the prayers of Ananias, a Christian in Damascus, and that he went on to become a great Christian preacher and teacher in many Mediterranean lands until he was martyred in Rome. Instead of having to give up attributes of which he was proud—his background as a Pharisee and Roman citizenship, for example—he was able to use them to support his ministry. They gave him credibility or entree into the myriad encounters that were part of his incredibly adventurous life.