In that place between wakefulness and dreams, I suddenly hear in his words an agony of earnestness that makes my heart stop. I breathe. Heave breathe; roll onto my side to get the weight off my chest. But it will not leave…
An old man, bent and nearly blind* is pressed down the corridor.
The step that once was firm and free is encumbered by shackles, the joints beg for mercy from the damp cold. This man is innocent. One look at his face is all it takes to prove it. But he is going to die.
You are in Rome. And this, is Nero’s dungeon.
Ruthless hands. Ruthless hearts.
The steps of the guards fade into silence and in my mind I am there.
There to see the great man grope about his cell; call out for his companion.
He calls for parchment, but he can’t see to write. Faithful Dr. Luke will write for him, this last will and testament. His hands tremble, his voice trembles, but this heart is strong.
Stronger than the Roman Empire.
It is Nero’s heart that trembles upstairs. (AA chap 48, “Paul Before Nero”)
But his frame is tired. And with the knowledge that he has not long to live, highest priorities becomes only priorities.
He wants to see his boy.
I do not know how the good doctor took the dictation without soaking the parchment with tears.
I couldn’t have.
I read the letter now, this last letter ever written by the Apostle to the Gentiles, this last will to the world, this letter to his boy, and I want to weep.
“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (II Tim 4:7)
Indeed you have, sir. Indeed you have.
I hear his chains rattle. And I hear a cry that is half audacious challenge, half daddy’s heart.
I can almost see the hand upraised, silhouette of shackles against cold stone. And my heart stops…
Don’t be ashamed, my boy.
Oh, don’t be ashamed of my chains…
And don’t be ashamed of the Gospel. **
Luke writes. I read.
My heart leaps, as Timothy’s must have.
Timothy, who most likely did not make it back to Rome in time…
I hug my pillow. Pray—
Oh my Father…
let me never be ashamed.
*Many scholars believe the “thorn” of II Cor 12:7 was in fact near blindness…
**See II Timothy 1:8
November 17, 2011 at 12:29 pm
Amen…never to be ashamed of my Lord…Father help this faltering heart…
November 17, 2011 at 2:53 pm
Hmmm… Thank you for bringing the book of 2 Timothy to life as I've never seen before. And I echo Abby's prayer– help me to never be ashamed!
November 17, 2011 at 4:09 pm
Oh that "the faith of our fathers" would be rekindled in all of our hearts! And oh that we would cultivate that vital connection with Christ NOW so that when the times of severe testing come, we will hold to the faith with the tenacity and endurance Paul had. When you think of what Christ did for us…could it be too much to ask? What an honor!
November 17, 2011 at 6:23 pm
Sean, thanks sooo much for this inspiring heart-stirring post! When I read it this morning, I was actually so inspired, I went and read AA chapters 48 & 49. I also went and read the entire book of 2nd Timothy! So much gold and wisdom there….and it addressed some things that I needed to hear this very day! Have you thought about writing a book or taking your writing to the next level? Your style and the inspiration God gives you is very refreshing. In fact, more then once, I've saved things you've written hoping to use them as illustrations at a future time. Once again, thanks for allowing the Lord to speak through you! 😉
November 17, 2011 at 7:16 pm
"…highest priorities becomes *only* priorities"… this phrase-this whole post- it leaves me with no words…
November 18, 2011 at 6:17 pm
Amen! May we never be ashamed of Him, may His priorities be our priorities and may we be able to finish strong, just like Paul did.
November 19, 2011 at 4:31 am
Wow wow wow. Seán, you hit the nail on the head again. Oh that I would never be ashamed! Help me to be a Paul as well…
November 19, 2011 at 2:14 pm
"But this heart is strong. Stronger then the Roman empire."
Thank you for this. It is true.
November 23, 2011 at 10:06 am
Wow…that reality of that scene felt like it almost made my heart stop. May we ever maintain the vision to be true to our Saviour regardless of anything, even life itself!