My wife Ellen and I recently traveled to Grand Forks North Dakota to watch our grandson perform in a summer arts presentation of the Rodger’s and Hammerstein’s musical, “The Carousel.” There is no point in having talented children and grandchildren if you don’t take a movement to brag on them — so let me just say the play was very well done and our grandson was amazing!
In between scenes they would turn the lights on stage way down; until all you could see were shadows moving against the darker background. As soon as the lights went down, the cast and crew scurried about, moving props in and out and setting everything up for the next scene.
After just a moment or two, the lights cane back on and everything looked different. The stage was set, ready for the new act to begin.
There was something about that moment of transition that is both interesting and illuminating.
Everyone in the theater knew that something was happening onstage, that things were changing, but we didn’t know exactly what was happening or what was to come. We just had to wait for the lights to come back up.
Somewhere near the end of the performance I realized there were several examples of this type of transformation through times of darkness in the Bible.
The most important and well-known example of transformation is the Easter story of Christ’s crucifixion, death and resurrection. After the crucifixion Jesus was placed in the cold, stone tomb for three days. According to the Apostles’ Creed it is believed that during those three days Jesus descended into hell demonstrating that no one is beyond the reach of God’s grace and forgiveness.
Perhaps the second most important transformation is that of Saul becoming Paul as told in Acts 9:1-19. Saul was a devout man, on what he considered to be a mission from God. Defend the faith — as he knew it by arresting Christians.
Acts 9: 3-4 says, “As Saul traveled along and was approaching Damascus, a light from heaven suddenly flashed around him. He dropped to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul! Why are you persecuting me?’”
This encounter with Jesus left Paul blind. After three days of darkness, there was light as the sight is restored, and more importantly it marked the beginning of a new chapter in Paul’s life. The three days of darkness were a transitional time for Paul.
In Acts 9:17-19 we see the beginning of Saul’s transformation. “Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord — Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here — has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.”
The next time you find yourself shrouded in darkness, take a moment to consider how God may be at work transforming you, and how amazing what comes next might be.
John R. Fowler is the pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Prosper.