Paul and Timothy are eager to spread the gospel but have been struggling with their next move. The Holy Spirit has forbidden them to go to Asia. The Spirit of Jesus has prevented them from going into Bithynia. Paul has a dream in the night and experiences a vision of a man pleading with him to come to Macedonia. This dream provides the needed direction, and they immediately get up and make their way to Macedonia.
What impresses me about this story is the immediacy of their action. Paul has a dream, and the next day they move. When I decided to relocate, the discernment process took a couple of years and filled most of a journal. The actual move—finding a new job, selling the house, packing and moving, and then settling into a new house—took the better part of a year. Rather than taking time to reflect, much less form a committee and do strategic planning, Paul makes his decision based on a dream of where God wants him to be. What opportunities might Paul have missed if he had not acted immediately? Some commentators note that Paul’s trip to Macedonia, part of modern-day Greece, led to the first account of conversion on the continent of Europe, a critical step in the establishment of Christianity there.
A powerful vision can transform our journey—if we are open to it. In turn, living out God’s vision can transform the world around us. If we lack openness, what opportunities might we miss? Of course, we also can make rash decisions, which differs from following a vision. Perhaps the key comes in remaining open to God’s direction and measuring our plans against it. Paul receives a dream that sets his course for Macedonia, and he pursues it.
Be our vision, O God. Help us open ourselves to your direction. Transform our journeys. Amen.