The Rev. Eugene Stockstill

The New Testament gives you enough data to piece together a resume for Saul of Tarsus, the great apostle to the non-Jewish community. You get some references, including the famous rabbi Gamaliel, his tribe, his proclivities and more than a few hints at his scholasticism, before a light from heaven brought him to his knees and knocked some sense into him about basic human relations.

And long after Damascus Road, he had had enough world travel, suffered enough woes and chalked up enough successes to make most souls say “enough” if thrown in prison for a religious doctrine. But what did the missionary write from a Roman jailhouse? “Everything that has been in my life so far is so much dung … and yet, maybe someday perhaps I will make it from the world of the dead to the land of the resurrected” (Philippians 3:8, 11, paraphrase).

Perhaps? Good grief! If the apostle Paul doesn’t sound like he knows for sure the destination stamped in his eternal passport, who can? Where in the world can a soul hope to find peace? Somewhere beyond this world, that’s for sure. “Ah, a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”

It does seem quite a thing to keep on updating your resume after you’ve encountered wonders so wonderful that in heaven, to speak of them on this planet amounts to a high crime (2 Corinthians 12:1-4). But not all that illogical to do so. The problem with any resume, written or not, is that it tends to set in concrete something that should remain fluid. “It’s such a good feeling to know you’re alive … growing inside.”

Do you think that old Saul was bemoaning the distance yet to travel? Or do you think he was delighting in all the joys yet to be had on the way to the “undiscovered country” … and beyond? “Forgetting what is behind and … straining forward … I press on …”

The Rev. Eugene Stockstill is pastor of Ebenezer United Methodist Church and Myrtle United Methodist Church in Union County.

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