Sunday, March 3, 2013

Once upon a time I identified with Paul

I went to Italy. I can't wait to go back. When I talk about my trip and show someone pictures they always ask which part of the country I enjoyed the most. We went to Venice, Florence, and Rome. Well, and flew into Germany both ways but never left the anyway that doesn't count. So when people ask I say Rome, hands down. It's a city, it's noisy, yes. Not my usual favorite things! It's been so long that I have forgotten lots of what we saw but one thing is burned into my memory. I marked it on the map in the days leading up to the trip and as pitiful as my navigation skills are I did my best to find it once I got to Rome. I did find it. I reacted differently than I thought I would once there but it was still my favorite memory of this dream vacation.

So once upon a time I walked down a very small staircase and got to the bottom floor of what seemed an ordinary building. There it was. A tiny room with no windows. The only openings in the whole room were that staircase, a drain in the floor and a hole in the ceiling. It wasn't glamorous or in any way lovely like the rest of Italy. It was dark and gloomy. Want to know what it was and why I wanted to go there?

It was one of the prison cells that Paul wrote from.


The real Paul. The one who did things we learn from and try to imitate in our Christian walk.

A prison cell. It's not a scary place anymore. There are stairs you walk down to get there and stairs you walk back up to leave. I waited until I was almost alone in that cell before I turned on my video camera and started filming. I didn't want to miss a thing. I stood in the middle of that tiny room and just thought. How would I feel here if I couldn't leave? If I was the accused. If I was on trial. Would I care about anyone outside this room? In the video you can hear me start sniffling. Then start crying. Then sobbing. I was so ashamed that I could honestly answer, "No." No, Lord, I'd be scared and only focused on getting out of here. I would want to be free, then I can tell people about You. Then I'll be able to tell them that You saved me from this. I don't think I'd have been able to talk about Your goodness from this place. I couldn't shake the feeling that place gave me. I think I'd have set up camp there if they'd let me just because that tiny room was the beginning of a new way of relating to God. It was where my walk really started. I wanted to turn things around. I wanted to get real.

Why was I so intrigued by this? I was in college, on a Spring Break trip with a friend and we had the world at our fingertips. I was so intrigued even back then at what God did through suffering. If Paul had been sitting on a rooftop of a fancy hotel writing would we all find such comfort in his words? I wonder about stuff like this. Would Jesus have been able to use him so powerfully if he'd been free? Of course, God can use anybody. Anywhere. But Paul was in jail, isolated and hated. He couldn't wait to keep telling people about what he saw, what he did while being with Jesus. He couldn't let a little thing like location keep him quiet. You know why? Because HE GOT IT. He got it. He knew the whole thing was about Jesus, not him. God knew that people would be able to relate to suffering and shame. He knew that we'd relate to Paul and we could learn from how Paul never backed down, even when no one was asking him to retell or recount what he saw--he still told people. He couldn't NOT tell people because he, of all people, knew what Jesus did for him. Suffering was just part of the deal.

Prison y'all. I've never been a prisoner but I've been in jails. When I first started counseling I worked in a juvenile detention center. I was scared to death every day. They told us to come without makeup, with baggy clothes, and with hardened faces for our protection. Not my favorite job. Since I was a little kid Dad has gone to jail almost every day. Ha! He's visited clients and gotten to know the bailiffs. He told me today that the guy who gives him the eggs we eat all the time is a bailiff that he's good friends with. He knows him well. The guy brings eggs from his farm. How cool is that? It's a relationship that has spanned years and years between a lawyer and a bailiff. Their lives spent dealing with people in prison. Their paths crossing probably only because of their profession. The bailiff has come to Dad's Sunday school class when he's not taking care of his sick momma. He and Dad talk about God, about honoring what they're called to do. And we get farm fresh eggs all the time.

Not sure why I'm telling you that side story sorry. Well, yes I do. It's about relationships. The whole thing, this whole life.

It's no secret that this week has been scary. I can't lose my Mom. I don't want her to suffer and I sure don't want her to leave. I don't want my kids to see someone sick, and God help me for them to lose someone else so close to them. Like I always do, I went to the dark, scary place for a while. What would I do? How would I protect the kids from more loss? It was a dark place, yes indeed. But I only stayed there for a little while. Then I walked back up the steps and started trying to live without fear again. It's a constant battle I'll face, y'all are well aware. It takes 400 decisions a day to turn away from fear for me. Maybe 401. I can do it, though. He's shown me too much that He can be trusted! I can't NOT tell people that He can be trusted. So y'all are who has to hear about it. You're welcome.

I'm sitting in my newly minted craft room, all cozy and safe and drinking my hot chocolate. I'm free. There is a prison cell in my heart that Satan reminds me of. That place where doubt and shame reside. Satan will always try to make me live there but he's not in charge.

My sheep know My voice and follow Me wherever I lead. John 10:4

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