And now, as a captive to the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and persecutions are waiting for me.
Acts 20:22-23 (NRSV)
One of the things that Wendy and I found fascinating about our time in Edinburgh a few weeks ago was that there’s hardly a straight, level street in the entire city. There are steep inclines, winding roads, angled streets, narrow alleys, and stairs upon stairs. We felt like we were constantly going up a steep hill or down a sharp incline. Our calves were killing us.
That came to mind this morning as I read today’s chapter. I’m reminded that life’s path is not always easy, and the way does not always meander through pleasant, level places. The theme of Dr. Luke’s account of the first generation of Jesus followers if filled with difficulties, persecutions, executions, imprisonments, riots, shipwrecks, and floggings. And, time and time again Luke says that the Message flourished and daily the number of believers grew.
I found it interesting to bullet out Paul’s conversation with his fellow believers from Ephesus in today’s chapter:
- I was a living example in my time with you. Follow it.
- I’m going to Jerusalem and expect to be persecuted and imprisoned.
- You’ll never see me again (I’m going to die before I can return)
- Be on guard! Wolves are going to infiltrate your flock.
- Give, and don’t expect anything in return.
The message was followed by weeping and grief.
It’s not exactly a Thomas Kinkade scene come to life. And, so it is with life’s journey. Sometimes the path leads through difficult terrain, but there is purpose in our pains and in the places God leads us. Paul wasn’t complaining about the road ahead. He may have felt fear and grief as he set out, but courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is the willingness to press on in spite of fear.
Today, I’m thinking about the balance of hoping for the best while knowing that “the best” does not always look the way I want it to look.