At Damascus, Saul ended his desire to attack Christians, knocked from his horse by a light from above and a voice which asked “why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4) This window recalling the moment is in the Franciscan church in Clevedon, Somerset. St. Bonaventure had compared St. Francis to St. Paul, both of them learning the power of faith directly from Christ himself. Most people do not experience a new beginning as one huge reversal in their lives. Conversion is generally gradual, shaky, in need of supportive friends and community. Even Paul and Francis realised that they had a great deal to learn during their lives, after the stunning breakthrough moment.
We see this in St. Paul’s first letter to Corinth, chapter 9. “If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you; for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord,” he wrote. The Corinthian Christians were the rough and ready mix of sailors and their girlfriends who understood how important the love of the risen Lord was to Paul. He tells them that the only meaningful reward for him is “that in my preaching I may make the gospel free of charge.” He wants them to experience the relationship with Jesus too, as a gift that liberates.
In Rom. 7:19 Paul was later to write, “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want I do.” He repeatedly felt he let himself down, in conversion, and needed God’s grace anew.