Falling down

Caravaggio-Conversion-of-St-Paul-1601.jpg

This depiction of Paul's conversion by Caravaggio shows profound insight into what happened on the Damascus road.

Notice how Paul has been violently unseated from his horse. He has lost his position of power and mobility. His sword lies useless on the ground. Blinded, his arms are outstretched pleading for help. His companion, unable to come to his aid, restrains Paul’s horse from trampling him underfoot. Paul is powerless, defeated and lost.

At this moment he is neither Saul or Paul. This man has no name. He has lost everything. His life is laid bare. He is powerless to save himself.

He will arise to be led, helpless, into Damascus. After three days of blindness he will emerge as Paul the leader of a missionary movement. But at this moment he does not know this. He does not know who he is.

This experience of divine unravelling and reorientation is a recurring pattern in the lives of the great founders—Patrick, Francis, Luther, Ignatius, Zinzendorf, Wesley, Carey, Seymour.

Look deeply into this painting. It reveals the heart and essence of what drives a dynamic missionary movement.

(Thanks to Mark Kingwell for his thoughts on Paul’s conversion).