Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ryan's Rome

Sarah and I returned from an amazing trip to Rome recently.    It was a wonderful time to get away for a while, just the two of us walking in a city rich with history, ancient sites, and amazing food.  We’ve had some incredible opportunities to travel while living in Turkey both locally and throughout Europe.  While in Rome, we visited the Coliseum and spent some time walking around and reading the stories behind this amazing structure.  Of all the history behind the Coliseum, one part stood out from the others… the story of the martyrs.  Interestingly, we visited Vatican City the day before and that was a totally different and wonderful spiritual experience.  Trust me, I didn’t wake up that morning, board the bus and expect to be awed spiritually.  I don’t think we ever do, God shows up when we least expect him to, and this was no different.  I believe it was a combination of seeing the cross in the Coliseum and scripture flooding my mind while standing there in that ancient place that caused me to be so moved.

I  felt an amazing sense of awe and humility regarding what the early believers, my brothers and sisters in Christ, had to endure to be called a Christ follower.  Don’t get me wrong, we all have our “crosses to bear” in life, but very few (if any) of us risk dying on them as well.  I always knew Nero was a crazy dude, but reading about it and walking where he did, put it in amazing context.   I could see thousands of Christians being martyred in the Coliseum.  I felt the pain, tears and sheer horror of seeing 3,000 believers hung from crosses for miles and miles on the road entering Rome.  Of all the amazing sites in Rome (and there are many), I sat at this one the longest.  Around the 16th or 17th century a cross was erected in the Coliseum honoring those who were martyred for their faith and soon after it became a sacred place.  The Pope visits the Coliseum  every Good Friday with the intent of honoring those who died.  I wonder what he’s thinking as he touches that cross?  I wonder if I would have the faith to endure as the Romans believers did?  One of my favorite passages is Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”  Paul wrote this to the church in Philippi, like most of his letters he wrote to encourage others, to encourage those to endure through pain and suffering knowing a greater reward await them.   I am encouraged to carry on, to endure, to persevere, to be there for others when needed …I believe that’s what Paul wanted, I believe that’s what Christ calls us to do.

Rome was many things and we’ll never forget it.  I expected to see amazing sites--and we did; I expected to have great food--and we did…more importantly, I did not expect to be moved spiritually-- but God did.
Lastly, Sarah already mentioned it, but it needs to be said again, we could have not gone on this trip if it weren’t for some amazing friends…thanks again.


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