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We met less than an hour ago and I already hate her. I partially hate how she’s wearing scrubs and white shoes. What do you think you’re better than me because you save lives? She’s probably just a dental hygienist or doctor’s office receptionist. Her slender arms and dark brown hair are too perfect to actually do something all day at work.
And the words that came out of her mouth. Sheesh. You’re not fooling me. You can’t talk your way into me liking you. I will vote you out of our church small group Survivor-style if necessary.
“I love Paul. The amount of things he’s endured. Prisons and torture…” she paused while I internally rolled my eyes at brunette Barbie and her perfect theological positions. “I don’t think I could live like that and be so faithful. I love his letters. They are so amazing.” It’s not like he can hear you, Miss Positive.
If you don’t know, Paul wrote too much of the New Testament. He’s kind of word-hog that way and I don’t like him. I mean sure, I’ve read Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon too, right? I’m reading through the New Testament and luckily I just hit Hebrews, author unknown.
I took 12 hours of religion courses in college, so I’m a hot shot. (If you spell Ecclesiastes without spellcheck, you are too). That’s why I don’t like Paul. He’s a hot shot and he thinks he’s better than me. He was so confident he’s better than me that he wrote about it 2,000 years ago. That whole passage about he’s the best Jew and was circumcised on the eighth day and yada yada? Dude, get a room with yourself.
I just don’t like him. His writing skills and his words are Divine, literally. But the moment he says something like “I believe,” I tune him out. And yes, Paul, I’m getting married. Suck it.
Anyway, that’s really why I didn’t like this girl. I knew she wouldn’t share my dislikes. And she brought French fries to our life group and didn’t generously give me them all to me, so my jealousies piled high atop each other.
Back to Paul, he’s too humble and too arrogant for me. He’s like the pendulum in a grandfather clock, changing his attitude every second. He’s written too many words about me. Mostly all that stuff about getting your act together. But he also writes a lot about how God’s grace changed his life. We get it, Paul, we all wish our testimony could change millions of lives and create a unified body of believers spanning centuries of time reaching across oceans to the ends of the earth. It doesn’t make you “special.”
Here’s the worst thing about Paul though, other than radically growing the church body, bringing the Gospel of salvation to the hurting, and enduring every imaginable trial in order to further the ministry of Jesus. (Can we all agree to hate this guy? He makes Steve Jobs look like a child.)
The worst thing is that passage about pleading three times with God to take away the thorn in his flesh. You know what I’m talking about because you have one too. For you, it may manifest itself in loneliness, insecurity, or feelings of failure. It may be how many years it’s taken you to “make something of yourself” or holding in that secret that would change everyone’s mind about you. Maybe it’s more serious and you’re plagued with illness or disability.
For me, it’s these migraines. And these foods allergies. And my struggles to remain connected with friends. And my insecurity about staying healthy and in shape. And that internal fear that I’ll never breach the expectations of success placed on me.
Maybe you can relate. My New Testament professor, a brilliant lad renown for everyone failing his challenging courses, said all the smart people think Paul’s thorn was some type of stomach or digestive issue. (First case of Celiac? I feel you, Paully.) It doesn’t really matter to the story though.
He lets go of it. That’s the real reason I hate Paul. He’s an amazing apostle, I must admit. Any and every Christian can agree that Paul’s words have completely changed the way they approach Jesus. He humbles us, shows us Jesus’ grace for like 300 pages, and proves he’s just as much a sinner as any of us.
He just let go of his troubles? Just like that? He just trusted Jesus?
I resent people who I want to be. I want to be humble and trusting, like Paul. I want to be nurturing and kind, like French fry eating girl. What I wouldn’t do to have a Whataburger in New Orleans…
Paul is someone who I wish I could be. Or, honestly, I wish I could be more like Jesus, but I think Paul must be the closest human comparison. Though he’d roll in his grave at the slightest comparison of his sinful nature to the manifestation of perfection.
But he mastered the hardest thing for people like me. Letting go. Bad grades, missed touchdowns, boyfriends or girlfriends, the passing of our grandparents. We’re in that stage of transition where nothing will go our selfish way and we have to let go of it all—no matter how much “it all” involves. It’s something we have to learn if we want to become adults filled with hope, instead of regret, and dreams, instead of hang ups.
I can’t tell you how to do it. But Paul has it figured out and Jesus is the answer.