My day started at 4:15 with a hotel wake-up call which said, “Good morning, this is your wake up call. You can either roll out of bed and join us for breakfast or turn over and go back to sleep. But, this is the wake-up call you requested.” Weirdest wake up call ever! Why would I request a wake up call if I wanted to go back to sleep? Don’t tempt me, computer voice! I can’t go back to sleep! I’ve got a plane to catch.
I’m half awake as I arrive at the airport, but all I really need to get on that plane is my ticket, my ID and myself. All I can think about is getting through security so I can satisfy my coffee craving. But I’m so stinking tired, I forget to request decaf. Now, I’m wired. Sitting on the plane eyes closed, mind racing, dreaming about my recent trip to Greece, Turkey and Rome. For two weeks, I visited cities where the apostle Paul lived, walked, ministered, started churches, and was beaten and persecuted. Ever since this trip, I’ve been trying to understand him a little more…trying to bring our ministry worlds together.
I spend my life traveling to minister the gospel to people, but I’m certainly no Apostle Paul. I don’t travel rustic roads to reach my destinations by foot, donkey or ship. I drive or fly. When people’s lives are changed as a result of a message, my enemies don’t drag me from a city, beat and leave me to die or chain me up in a prison cell. But, I am exhausted.
For the last two months, I’ve traveled and poured my soul out at churches, colleges and women’s events. I’ve shared messages in vulnerable sincerity, and now I’m tired. I’m ready for some time alone to rest. Sitting on this plane, all I can think about is getting home to hug my two boys and my husband and tell them how much I love them.
In my weak, tired state, I’m tempted to condemn myself for being LESS THAN Paul. But instead of going down that guilty road, I’ve decided to channel this caffeine and use it for a greater purpose. I’d like to share with you something I learned from Greece, from Paul.
Why did Paul travel so much? Why was he unable to remain in one place? Was it simply the persecution that drove him from place to place, or did his itch originate from a deeper place?
The first year of our marriage, Clayton and I spent a majority of our days on the road (320 in the first year). We went from church to church, event to event, home to home ministering to people. We experienced every kind of church, big and small, city and country, traditional and modern. Each church had it’s own personality; it’s own strengths and weaknesses. But we appreciated how each one played it’s part in building the Kingdom of God.
In our third year, we had our first son. This slowed our schedule a bit, but serving the church has become a part of our DNA as a couple. I believe this “on the road” lifestyle has given me a little insight into Paul’s letters. When he writes to the people in Ephesus, Corinth, Galatia, etc., you will notice a common theme: he loves the church and wants it to succeed. His life was dedicated, and his heart was committed to pouring himself out so that the church (believers in Jesus) could succeed. I believe this deep yearning drove him to travel, to preach, to teach, to write letters of encouragement and admonition so that people who loved Jesus could finish well.
Surrounded by a plane full of snoozing passengers, I realize that while I may not have suffered for my faith to the same extent as Paul, we share a common dream. We both want Jesus followers to finish well. This is why I do what I do when I could be home with my kids, living a “normal life” (if that even exists). I want to see people overcome when they feel defeated. I’m not arrogant enough to assume I can fix everyone’s problems, but perhaps my story, mistakes, and successes can give people courage to continue to live for Jesus in this crazy world. When I’m on stage, my soul just wants to scream out,
“Don’t give up!! Keep running the race you started! Don’t give up because one day your struggle will be over! One day, you’ll finish this race and at the finish line you’ll find Jesus there to congratulate you and welcome you home to the place he’s been preparing for you all this time. Oh, precious believer, this is not your home, but for now, it’s the place where we’re called to make a difference and encourage each other along the way. So, let’s do this thing together.”
Friend. If these words have reached your soul today, I’m praying you will find the strength to make it one more minute, hour, day, week, or year. Whatever timeframe of strength you need, I pray Jesus would meet you there and that you will be “strong in the Lord and the strength of His might!” (Ephesians 6:10)
Maybe you share the same passion as Paul and me. Perhaps you also have a deep desire for your friends to love Jesus and finish well. If so, I pray for you, dear friend. I pray God would give you wisdom and creativity to minister to the world around you in a way that produces loads of fruit!