by Beverly Ward
March 27, 2022
From Science: The “Aha!” moment is one of the oldest concepts in psychotherapy. It is a sudden burst of insight that sheds new light on a situation or solves a problem. Sometimes, in therapy, we gain insight gradually and comprehend in unfolding layers, not so with the “Aha!” moment, it comes like a flash of light. In fact, neuroscience tells us that just a fraction of a second before the “Aha!” happens, there is a sudden, brief eruption of high-frequency brain waves; in a scan, this is seen as light. This neurological event is followed by a swell of emotion as meaningful realization pierces through to the conscious mind. The “Aha!” often leads to significant, sometimes dramatic, life changes.
From Scripture: If there was an award for the greatest “Aha!” moment of all time, I believe it would go to Saul of Tarsus. I would delight to write pages about this alluring character from scripture, born in AD5 in modern day Turkey (a fitting home town for Saul of Tarsus), and you would be on the edge of your seat reading about him. My obligatorily short version of his captivating story is this: Saul was a brilliant, highly educated Jewish Rabbi who despised Jesus and sought to wipe out His likeness by hunting down and slaughtering Christians. Saul was on the warpath from Jerusalem to Damascus, with murder on his mind and hate in his heart, when God gave him a divine jab. A sudden, blindingly brilliant light brought Saul to his knees and a voice (think Morgan Freeman) said “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”, Saul replied, “Who are You, Lord?”, and the Lord answered “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” (A goad is a long rod with a sharp end used to prick an animal to move.). And, just like that, Saul stopped kicking. Saul was a new man and with that came a new name; Paul rose from the ground blind to the physical world, but with the eyes of his heart opened. Paul traveled on to Damascus, regained his sight, became a fervent disciple, and went on to write thirteen books of the New Testament. (Treat yourself to the full experience of this story in Acts 7-9).
Maybe it is not fair to compare Saul’s “Aha!” moment to one you or I might have, or maybe I just prefer to think so because it gives me an excuse to share another of my favorite “Ahas!”: John Newton, lyricist of “Amazing Grace”. John Newton was a scoundrel and the captain of a slave ship; he was a tough character with a stony heart…until. This is where his story becomes a bit gray, we know that Newton had an “Aha!’ of colossal portions while abord his ship, but some details of the story vary slightly from one account to another, here is my favorite: Captain Newton was aboard a vessel carrying human cargo of African men and women intended for slavery. He had recently begun studying scripture, which we know can till the hardest of hearts into fertile soil. Perhaps that is why the sorrowful cries of Newton’s prisoners finally broke through his ears into his heart, pulling back the veil over his eyes to reveal a wretch looking back at him in the mirror. It is said that he penned his hymn right there on the spot and that the melody the words are set to is a west-African sorrow chant, perhaps one he heard coming from the belly of the ship. It is also said that Newton turned the vessel around and returned his brothers and sisters home.
Action Plan: In science, we do not know how to facilitate an “Aha!” moment. In scripture, we have a tool. The common denominator with Saul and Newton is God’s living Word. Saul had it divinely imparted to him and Newton just started studying. Saul was just flat out overcome, hijacked by the power of the knowledge of Christ. For Newton, it was a slower tilling of the soil that allowed the right seed to spring forth at just the right time. There is so much scripture about the power of scripture; this weeks's action plan is to Google “scripture about scripture” and read about the power of God’s Word. May it bring you a divine “Aha!”
The Lagniappe: Wintley Phipps with a telling and singing of Amazing Grace.