The first thing I want to tell Paul when I get to heaven – Paul, I am sorry. Yeah, that Paul – of Tarsus, famous from the Damascus incident and much more.
Honestly, I didn't like Paul very much until recently. I thought he was snobbish. When BeyondMadness and I were once talking about who we would want to be friends with in heaven, I said David. She picked Paul. I said I wouldn't really talk much to Paul there. He was a great person, alright, but to me he seemed to show-off too much. He had learnt a lot, knew a lot, had truckloads of influence but I thought he didn't act all that humble. A quality my superhero David had in immeasurable amounts. It always amazes me how a King could say, "Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house that you have brought me this far?"! How could David, who killed his ten thousands, dance undignified on the streets for the Lord! How could the ruler of a nation give his choice time for God, write songs on Him and make music to Him! Wow. Define humility for me!
And so, to me, Paul was this highly educated scholar, a pompous genius with attitude tagging alongside. Do this. Don't do that. Some of you do this. Why do you do that? You are infants. Be careful. Questions. Exhortations. Commands. Huh! I thought Paul was saying all that he did, the way he did, because he thought he was much better than all those people and as if everyone else was an idiot. I didn't like the idea. I was kinda prejudiced against Paul, and hence his writings. I knew God would soon teach me the lesson I needed.
And He did. The beautiful part of my learning was not the lesson, per se, but the way He taught it.
I used to write to a friend of mine, Bruce. Bruce was very dear to me and I cared a lot about him. At times I used to write things like – Do this… don't do that… you could do this… Questions, exhortations, suggestions. I meant them to remind him of things one might tend to forget or overlook, to make sure he doesn't lose track. And many times, he would reply – "So, that's what you think of me? That I am bad? Fine, if that's what you think". I would have given anything to make him understand that it wasn't to pull his esteem down or show that I was better (Which I wasn't, BTW) that I wrote them. It was out of love, and all that I could do to keep up the "Build each other" command from Ephesians 4:29. Bruce was important to me and I took the right to tell him things. I was upset and told God that Bruce always got my intentions wrong, when God gently pointed to that corner in my mind that disliked Paul for his "Big-headedness". Felt like I was punched in the stomach. I was feeling bad that Bruce was behaving this way to me, when all the while I was doing the same to Paul. Man!
Paul was writing all that stuff in his letters coz he loved the people. He took his rights, not to boast and buff his ego but coz he cared. And I thought he was a snob. God forbid!! Man, what had I been doing? I wanted Bruce to understand my intent but I never had gotten Paul's. =/. I apologized to God and promised to change my attitude toward Paul. Well, God went ahead to open my eyes wider to Paul's life.
Guess what was the syllabus in adult Sunday school for the next two months? Paul! As we learnt about Paul and his life, I felt a deep sense of admiration growing inside of me for him. I couldn't imagine how hard it would have been for such a grand genius to give up his status, his "gethu" for the Lord and boldly choose to be persecuted for the sake of the gospel. The last class we had on Paul and we were learning from the second book of Timothy. And when we were at the place where Paul was saying what will later become a famous line – I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith – I saw tears fall on the pages but didn't care to mop my eyes. I let them fall so that if Paul was looking down, he would know how really ashamed I was of myself.
Such a great apostle, Paul. Such a great human, with such humility. God taught me my lesson in way I could never forget. And Paul is now officially my favorite writer!
And the first thing I want to tell Paul when I get to heaven – Paul, I am sorry… and er… Could you sign my new testament?