As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
- Acts 9:3-5
Disclaimer: This is not in any way about the 1978 classic single from the band The Who, but if you've already started humming "who-who, who-who," go ahead and hit this clickbait link and it'll offer you 5 minutes of nostalgia. I had to stop and listen before I could go on, too.
Ok, now for the real stuff. Good questions are the root of profound growth. Jesus seemed to know this, since he posed over 300 questions to his listeners throughout the gospels. But today is a reminder that some questions are so transformative that they may just change the course of our lives.
Diana Butler Bass, in her book Freeing Jesus, reminds us of the story of Saul's (Paul's) conversion. This is the moment when an extremist for violent persecution and religious purity would become an extremist for love and grace. Saul is on his way to raid synagogues and capture anyone who belonged to The Way, which was the first name for the people of Jesus. And while he's heading toward Damascus, the post-resurrected Jesus meets him in a wave of blinding light that knocks him over.
Bass notes how interesting it is that in the midst of this overwhelming encounter, the first words out of Saul's mouth aren't What do you want?? or What are you doing?? or even, What's happening??? AHHHHHHH!!!
Rather, it's this: Who are you?
That single starting point, she suggests, becomes the basis for the next 3 decades of Paul's life. In each missionary journey, in each attempt at starting small and messy church communities, Paul continues to work out that same question... who are you, Lord? And, at the risk of sounding like a heretic, I'd suggest that Paul comes to many different answers as the years and letters go by. As he should...because Jesus is so many things. Go ahead and read the New Testament to see what he concludes.
The reason that Who are you? is such a powerful question is that it is about connection before anything else. Who is the one question that we must have an answer for before a relationship can begin, and certainly before love can flourish. We may have many other questions, but humans can only feel safe and grounded in relationship when we feel like we know who another person is. It's foundational for trust. It's deeper than basic information, and it's a question that requires ongoing exploration. I certainly know that who I am is not the same as it was fifteen years ago.
In our discipleship, allowing ourselves to constantly ask "who are you, Jesus?" opens the door for ongoing growth in the deep places. Rather than simply quoting recited creeds, we are invited to pursue and experience Jesus in fresh ways throughout our entire lives. If we think that getting the information right about Jesus is more important than growing in formation with Jesus, we may go our entire lives never actually encountering who Jesus really is. And if we never get there, we may never get to the point of being so changed by that relationship that it carries over into a life of love, mercy, and grace to the world around us.
What if you sat for a few prayerful moments this week and asked that profound question...
Who are you, Lord?
Perhaps it would provide an opportunity to notice where Jesus is meeting you in this chapter of your story. And perhaps you'll be surprised.
Jesus, draw me into who you are, not simply to gain information, but so that I can walk more deeply with you.