Ciao Bella!

That, as many of you know, means Hello Beautiful!  It’s an exquisite phrase, and it rolls off the tongue deliciously, in either language.  It encompasses in my mind an endearing combination of bold intimacy and light friendliness.  It’s personal.  It’s welcoming.  It’s romantic.  It’s lovely.

I have been afforded the opportunity to travel with a wonderful group of college students, as well as my awesome husband, to Italy!  We’ll spend the bulk of our days in the ancient city of Rome, walking in many of the areas where the apostle Paul may have trod.  Gazing at some of the same architectural achievements the early Christians lived among.  Were martyred among.

The thought is sobering, to be certain.  We take so much for granted as believers in the year 2011.  But consider this.  You can, at this moment, check out any number of reputable Christian sources and find that persecution and martyrdom of followers of Jesus Christ are very much a reality in many areas around the world.  Many are waking up every morning, knowing that they will very likely be taunted, if not tortured or even put to death by nightfall because of their profession of faith.  And yet they stand firm.  Their lives—and deaths—are surrendered to the God of their salvation. 


I get frustrated when the secular world rolls its eyes at my attempts to live out my faith before it.  I become even more agitated when my own will gets in the way of my intentions.  I fail constantly.  I repent.  Then I fail again.  It’s pathetic, actually.  But it doesn’t have to be this way. 

I want to be as the believers who have lived and died before me.  I want to be as those who are, at this very moment, standing firm—even in the face of physical destruction.  I want to honor God with every part of my existence.  Every fiber of my being.  I want to hear, when I enter His kingdom, Well done, thou good and faithful servant.

So here I am, a mother of four.  The wife of a man who works at a humble Bible college.  An aspiring author.  I am not an eloquent public speaker.  My looks are less than average.  I lack patience.  I am too easily offended.  I get nervous in large groups.  I fall on my face more often than I rise to the occasion.  How can I ever hope to bring glory to the One who is perfect?

And then as Truth confronts me, I have to smile.  The apostle Paul wasn’t perfect, either.  He tells us this himself in his letter to the Romans (chapter 7, verse 15).  For that which I do I allow not:  for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.  Basically, he’s saying, I don’t do what I should, and I often do what I shouldn’t.  And yet God used him.

What better way for God Almighty to bring glory to Himself than to work through the imperfect, often pathetic?  How better for the God of the Universe to show Himself than through the weak and finite men and women who can lay claim to absolutely no self attained attribute?

Yes, we must study to show ourselves approved.  Yes, we need to be able to give evidence of our salvation.  But those aren’t us.  Not really.  For God takes the so-called strengths and the weaknesses of His children and makes them into something He can use.  Something wondrous.  Without Him, we can do nothing.  It’s not that we can do less.  It’s not even that we can do little.  We can do nothing.

So as I’m making preparations to take this trip, it is with a new resolve.  I know I’ll fall short from time to time—I’ve already confessed that I am a creature who stumbles.  But I am purposing to imagine—as often as possible—what it might have been like for the early Christians.  What it might have been like for Paul after his salvation.  And I will remind myself, every time the thought circles to completion, that such treatment of followers of Jesus Christ is still going on.  And I will pray, as I stand on those sites made famous by their perseverance through the centuries, for the ones around the world today, who know whom they have believed.  I will pray as they pray.  That their sufferings will serve to bring glory to our Heavenly Father.  That God’s purpose will prevail in spite of our human frailties.

And then I will pray for the courage to begin every morning as they do.  With the acceptance that this world is our mission field, but it is not our home.  And whether or not I am ever called to lay down my physical life for the accomplishment of God’s glory, I will purpose to daily lay down the summation of my life.  All the weaknesses.  All the mistakes.  All the shortcomings.  All the wonderful humanness.

One day, I will see my Savior’s face, and I will fall before Him.  I will lay all my unworthiness at His precious, pierced feet, and I will hear the words spoken tenderly by my Redeemer, “Hello, Beautiful.”

Or something very much like that.

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