My post for the Weekly Writing Challenge: 1,000 Words follows. I’ve been searching for inspiration and direction all week, and this came to me this morning. I’m writing about when Paul and Silas were in prison, using Acts chapter 16 in the NIV Archaeological Study Bible as reference point. …
As I run my fingers over the brick and mortar of these beautiful arches, I can’t help but recall when Paul and I were sentenced without a trial and put in maximum security in a Roman prison.
That whole ordeal was crazy. We were Roman citizens. It should never have gone that far. I just shake my head in … I don’t know … ‘wonder’, ‘awe’, the senselessness of it? I guess I can’t say that. The jailor and his family came to know the Lord. What the Lord will do to touch the hearts of the people He loves. To orchestrate all the little details that came together. Maybe I do shake my head in wonder and awe.
We had been walking through a market place, heading to a place of prayer. This slave girl would not leave us alone. She was possessed by a python spirit, meaning she was like a puppet. She did not speak for herself. This thing spoke through her. I remember, at the time, being somewhat curious why Paul was so irritated by her. He had had enough.
What she was saying was true. We were (are) servants of the Most High God. We were teaching and preaching. People were being saved, daily, by putting their faith in Jesus Christ. What’s wrong with that? Even if she was possessed? Paul was frustrated and he cast the demon out.
I’m a prophet. I’m a teacher. My community sent me as a solid, strong voice to accompany Paul. What did Paul understand that I didn’t? Well, he explained that the poor girl was possessed. It was the demon saying those things. That demon was harassing us, like sarcasm and ridicule. It had to stop. In addition, that girl needed to be set free. She was being exploited by man. They had no concern for her well-being. They just saw her a tool for making money. The bonus was that in being delivered from the python spirit, she could think for herself, speak for herself, and come to believe and be saved, herself.
So, I guess, in looking back. Who could say that only the jailor and his family was saved through that experience. I had forgotten about her. Her name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, also. Nice!
Well, when Paul cast out the demon, the merchants were so upset, they had us arrested. I was thinking, “Really?! Now what?! Lord, help us!”
We knew that there had to be a bigger picture. We remembered what Jesus went through, being falsely accused and beaten. He was fulfilling a greater purpose. What was ours? We did not commit a crime. We were Roman citizens. Roman practices demanded we have a fair trial and be treated well. Yet, all of those benefits of citizenship were denied us.
We were stripped, beaten and flogged. We were thrown in the inner prison, with our feet put in stocks. Paul was sitting and I was lying on the floor. Moving was nearly impossible. When I close my eyes I can still see it all.
There were so many men in that prison. The lost. The forgotten. Bruised, bleeding, starving. It was a forsaken place. I had only heard stories and rumors. There was a time I had dismissed them as fairy tales. Surely, the leaders of Rome were not that cruel. Yet, here I was. The bigger picture?? I was overwhelmed with compassion and grief. Where is mercy and justice for these? Where is a future and hope? How does one even speak of miracles and salvation in this dark place that has never seen light.
The light did come. Paul and I brought the light. Suddenly, the pain, shock, hunger and bewilderment dissipated. The power of the Holy Spirit filled the prison. I knew my Lord was with us in that place. We began to sing.
Paul started, softly at first. I tried to follow along. It’s hard to sing lying down. I laugh now when I think about it. As Roman Christians, our praise and worship is not as … well … lively. (smile) From my experience, Jewish style praise involved a lot of hand clapping and dancing. Hard to accomplish in stocks. We found a workable middle point. Paul swayed and rocked as he sang. I tried to sit up and eventually managed it.
The men throughout this inner cell watched and listened. We could sense with every fiber of our being that they were experiencing scrutiny, curiosity, hope and maybe a little entertainment. In a sense, we all did. What else was there?
Then it happened! There was an earthquake. The floors and walls shook. The doors flew open and all of the chains came loose. The tears still stream down my face as I think about it. Look around you, at these brick walls. These beautiful arches. The floor. The magnificence. How could anything make this shake? What power is that strong?
We knew it was God. Although we were free, we stayed. For the others, it was probably fear and the fact no one had moved since they got here. The doors were open and the chains undone. The bodies were still, frozen, atrophied. But the hearts were light!
The jailor was mortified! Bless that man. He thought we had all run off. The shame. He was overcome. In fact, we saw him reach for his sword. He was going to suicide. We yelled at the top of our voices, “Stop!! We are still here!” He called for someone to bring in some light. You should have seen his face as he looked around in wonder. He fell before Paul and I and he cried.
After a moment, he looked up at us and asked us what he must do to be saved. Well, then I started to cry. The suffering was worth it. The Lord did remember all of these lost souls in the center of this prison. The prisoners and the jailors, alike. This place and these people were not forgotten. There are no words. ….
Following are 24 of the more recent posts in this Writing Challenge. For all of the contributors, visit the original challenge page. Click Here.
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