11 The Lord instructed him, “Go to Judas’ house on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias enter and put his hands on him to restore his sight.”
13 Ananias countered, “Lord, I have heard many reports about this man. People say he has done horrible things to your holy people in Jerusalem.14 He’s here with authority from the chief priests to arrest everyone who calls on your name.”
15 The Lord replied, “Go! This man is the agent I have chosen to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and Israelites. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”
17 Ananias went to the house. He placed his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord sent me—Jesus, who appeared to you on the way as you were coming here. He sent me so that you could see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Instantly, flakes fell from Saul’s eyes and he could see again. He got up and was baptized. 19 After eating, he regained his strength.
Once, there was a young girl. She was born into poverty. Her parents had immigrated to the United States to escape the great potato famine of Ireland. From an early age she suffered. She had five siblings, but two passed away at birth. When her mother passed away, her dad was a horrible caregiver. Finally, giving up, he dropped her brother and her at a poor house. Meanwhile, the girl was also blind. As a child, she was an uneducated blind girl. Anyone who would have seen her would have thought: this girl would amount to nothing. That was not the case. No one would have guessed this girl would find her way into an academy for the blind, become the top of her class, and eventually be the woman who would make the breakthrough with Helen Keller. Anne Sullivan was counted out as child, but there was potential in that soul. Potential that would change the world.
Our history is often shaped by second chances, or missed opportunities. For Anne Sullivan, she was determined not to spend her life in poverty. It was during a state inspection, Sullivan convinced one of them to allow her to leave and enroll in a school for the blind. For Franklin Sanborn, the man who agreed to let her go, it was saying yes to someone who appeared like a lost cause by most definitions.
I know it doesn't make sense to compare Anne Sullivan to Saul. It appears the only connection is both were blind. I want to compare their potential greatness. For that matter, anyone's potential greatness.
It is easy to see a diamond sitting in a setting, lying on a jeweler's table. Some of us can even tell the quality of the 4 C's to that diamond. Then it can be given a value. What many of us can't do is see the value of a diamond just dug up from the earth. I'm sure, many of us would think we are looking at a piece of trash. No real value at all.
We like to celebrate a beautiful person. We raise them up. We give them love and adoration. We tend to forget, many of these people started out as raw, unpolished, and unrefined. They didn't grace the jeweler's table with the other precious gems. In some cases, they had a terrible and dark history. Their history was paved with the death of others. Now whether that was the fault of others, like Anne Sullivan's story, or the person was responsible, like Saul, we don't want to give our focus to these people. They are not on the inside. They are not part of the group.
Newsflash, God likes outsiders. God likes the underdog. God is known to pick those on the outside to change the inside. Moses lived with the enemy before he became the liberator of the Israelites. Issac, Jacob, and Joseph were not first born children. Yet, they are the ones who inherited the birthright and changed the story. Saul was a bad guy. He watched Stephen being stoned to death! This was one of the Apostles! Before the blinding on the road to Damascus, no one within the Christian story would have seen anything redeemable in this man. In fact, he had to change his name because no one trusted "Saul." Yet, this would be the guy who would write the next chapter in the Christian story. More than any other Apostle, Paul was the biggest evangelist in early Christendom.
What does that mean for us? Don't assume who are the people who are going to change the world. We can look at all those pretty diamonds out there, when we should be looking for an uncut gem.