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