Monday, March 9, 2009

Arabian Sojourn (Galatians 1:11-24)

I'm in the middle of finding a new spiritual director. While I have heard that spiritual direction can take place long distance via phone conversations, I don't think that would work for me. So with my former director moving far away, I am going to take some time in finding a new one.

The thought of Paul in Arabia has come to mind. I'm living some questions that perhaps I've avoided. It's too easy to construe Paul's hermit sojourn as a rugged, individualistic American would. But I have to think that the call he received to go among the Gentiles with the Jesus Gospel required a rethinking of his life and a remaking of his person and this could only begin with a profound self emptying in the desert.

Paul's being a super-achiever is among the several continuities between his life in Judaism and being an apostle to the Gentiles. Paul is also zealous, whether as a Pharisee- teacher- persecutor, or as a Christ-believer and persecuted apostle. My interpretation- Paul apparently still kept and honored the Torah for Jews like himself as well for Christ believers who were born into Judaism, such as Timothy. The conflicts came when he didn't require Gentile believers to observe Torah.

So what's the big difference in Paul the person? It's answered, in part, by his going to Arabia. For three years. There was safety from the threats of the extreme wing of Judaism that he once represented, as well as protection from Roman authorities. The implication of the text is that Paul went away immediately to seek God. And I like the fact that the question is left to our imagination.

To seek God only is our calling, because we cannot offer what we do not have. So it is with finding a new spiritual director. If I don't learn something in my own search, how can I hope to understand what that's like? If I'm so unfamiliar with the energy, pain and struggle to find genuine Christian community, how in the world can I companion another on a similar journey?

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