The Hard Road to Rome
Proverbs 13:12 says "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life." My goodness, do I know what that feels like.
I have wanted to be a published author for a long time. I started writing An Anointed Mess: Discovering the Daily Adventure of Grace almost 15 years ago. After less than a year I thought the book was finished, but God hadn't finished writing the book in me.
I originally had these visions of being on bookstore shelves within a year, selling well and moving on to more comfortable kind of living. Instead things got more difficult for us... MUCH more difficult. I have honestly lost count of the number of layoffs... medical emergencies... times we did not know how we would pay rent... deaths of loved ones... the breakdowns just kept coming in torrents. I had written about grace, peace and joy that can sustain and bless us even in the midst of trials. Over the next decade and a half God made me live those words in deeper, more challenging ways than I had ever experience.
The apostle Paul also knew the agony of deferred hope. As much as he longed to go to Rome, he never quite got there on any of his traditional missionary journeys. Towards the end of his third and final mission campaign, he wrote a letter to the church at Rome in which he repeated both his longing and intention to see them soon, right after a stop in Jerusalem.
Paul's stay in Jerusalem led to him being beaten, falsely imprisoned without charges and having numerous attempts made on his life. Two years later he was still being held without charge only a few miles from Jerusalem by a corrupt governor who both wanted to look good to the Jews and/or to receive a bribe from Paul. When a new governor came, the religious leaders from Jerusalem tried once again to get Paul moved back into town so that they could silence him once and for all. But Paul used his right as a Roman citizen to appeal to Caesar.
And where did they send him? Rome!!! So basically, the tactics Paul's enemies had used to silence him actually led him to the very center of where he felt a call and a longing to be towards a period of fruitful sharing of the Gospel that that spread all over the known world. Everything that they had put Paul through actually diminished their own credibility while strengthening Paul's voice.
"For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance! (Acts 28:30-21) This sowed the seeds for the spread of the Gospel throughout all of Europe.
You see, if God is truly calling us to do something, no matter how big or small, and we choose to continue in faithfulness to God's call, it's only a matter of time before it happens. The road to our God-given dreams may be longer and more difficult that we have expected (as are many things worth doing). But God will redeem even the difficulties by refining our character and strengthening our voice along the way.
Today, as my book is available for preorder while at the printer, I can honestly say that I am grateful for this years of refinement and trial, because it has also been a time of great blessing. Among other things, I am much more convinced that any kind of success or goodness in my life has everything to do with the grace of God, who deserves all of the glory. And having to live out the very words I wrote has strengthened my voice. I don't know how well this book will sell. I have no guarantees that life will get easier. But I am grateful that God has brought about the fulfillment of the dream that the Lord placed on my heart, though the road here was much longer than I planned.
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