As a culture, we love post-apocalyptic movies, don’t we? I mean, how many movie trailers start off with a desaturated camera pan across a deserted wasteland in the not-so-distant future? I always thought we were just so scared of the end of the world as we know it, that we kept playing it out on the big screen, mixing in a few robots or zombies for good measure. But I think there’s something else appealing about that genre for us: the idea of a total restart, watching society begin anew from the ashes. In some ways, it sounds romantic, doesn’t it? Like hitting the reset button on my old-school Nintendo. And all the while thinking, “Maybe we’ll get it right this time.” As long as no one re-invents Twitter or reality TV shows.
Of course, I’m still just talking about movies. I’m not some James Bond villain suggesting that we literally hit the reset button on society. But I do think our fascination with these types of stories speaks to a deep longing for a fresh start. And not just in society as a whole, but — most importantly — in our own individual lives. Haven’t we all, at one point or another, wished for a redo? A fresh start? The good news is the Bible is full of them, and that’s exactly what Jesus calls us to: a new life with a new beginning.
I can’t think of a more jarring reset than the one Saul (a.k.a. Paul) had on the road to Damascus. Up until that point, this man’s sole passion had been dismantling the Christian movement and throwing followers of Christ in jail or worse. And here’s the scariest part of all: he believed wholeheartedly in what he was doing, even though it was dead wrong. You could say it was his religion, and he pursued it zealously. Then, with a flash of light and a thundering voice, everything changed. We find the full story in the Book of Acts.
But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
— Acts 9:1–9
Talk about a game changer. You’re walking down the road, and then WHAM! In a moment, you realize with 100% certainty that you have been actively going against the God of the universe. Wow. I wonder how Saul would’ve described that moment. Humbling? Terrifying? Life changing? I’m sure all of the above. I’ve had similar moments. No blinding light or audible words, but a powerful moment of conviction when I realize I’ve been actively defying God with my life. Maybe you’ve had moments like that too. They’re jarring, to say the least.
And not only was Saul himself stunned, even the men around him were speechless. And then comes verse eight, which I believe has a much deeper meaning than simply, “he opened his eyelids but couldn’t see.” This verse paints a picture that, even though in that moment Saul was physically blinded, his eyes were opened for the very first time. It was a new beginning for a new man named Paul. And, as he would later proclaim in verse 20, he finally understood the truth that “Jesus is the Son of God.”
Most of the time restarts are not fun. They are jarring and painful and often involve a violent tearing away of the old self. But a new year is a good time to evaluate where we stand. If a voice boomed down from heaven today, would you be stunned to find that so much of your life has been wasted actively defying God? If so, what needs to change in your life? What needs to fall away? Maybe, like Hebrews 12:1 says, we need to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles [and] run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Maybe we need to wholeheartedly invest in our relationship with God, in the power of prayer and mediating on his truth. Another year has come, and it’s time to embrace the new life that Jesus is calling you to.