I got to thinking the other day about the Apostle Paul’s mother. I wondered if she was fearful of his missionary journey, and so I decided to write a fictitious letter from her to Paul and then his reply. It started out as a humorous idea, but then as I wrote, I found myself relating to her quite a bit. Historically we know very little about this woman. Only that she raised Paul to follow in his Pharisee father’s footsteps and educated him for the first five years of his life. I feel sure she was proud of his accomplishments, until he met the Lord on the road to Damascus and his world changed. I do not know what his mother thought or felt about this change, but I have used my imagination and my personal experience as a mother to speculate. See if you can relate. Paul’s response to her letter follows, and it is also from my imagination and personal experience with sons who do not always communicate the specific details of their lives to me. 😉
Dear Saul, (or do I call you Paul now?)
I have been thinking of you often and taking you before G-d always. I must say I miss you terribly. More than I thought possible. When you first said you were going on a journey to tell of Jesus of Nazareth I didn’t think I would miss you this much. After all, you had angered me going on and on about this foolishness of the Messiah. It was against everything I had taught you. But now in your absence, I find myself longing to hear some word from you.
It is unheard of you know, to go all the places you are going. There are so many unclean things out there in the world, and I worry about you coming into contact with them, thus spoiling your service to G-d in the temple. And the dangers! How many there are! Robbers, swindlers, and those who would do you harm…your Roman citizenship makes you an enemy to so many. This has caused me many sleepless nights I tell you. I imagine you being taken and tortured, and my heart is heavy with the knowledge that I could not rescue even if I did know where you were. I cannot comprehend where you are staying, or the foods you are subjected to…do the people along your travels even know the dietary laws of our people? Do they know any of the laws that G-d gave us? I know I said I would not speak of it, but I must ask you why? Why did you leave us and our practices? Why don’t you communicate with us anymore? How could you throw away the education we provided for you? Do you not have any consideration for our feelings on these matters?
I remember our last discussion and how you shared about your blindness. I must say I was as intrigued as I was frightened by such a story. You must know how it all sounded in my ears. Blinding light? Voices? Strangers knowing you without introduction? And then sight again? It is farfetched even in my wildest imagination, yet I have never known you to lie about anything before. My only conclusion can be that the Christ-followers have affected your thinking and convinced you that such things are possible. I worry about this, as you can imagine. I do so wish you had never left us. Your place is here, in the temple with your father, and among our people…not wandering the countryside with trouble makers. I pray to G-d that you will soon return to the faith of our people.
I hear rumors about you. It seems you write letters and communicate with many…other than me. I hear you are gathering enemies and that you are living in dangerous places. I hear that you are preaching to the masses and that many are becoming followers of this sect you are with. I hear that travel is grueling and that you do not always have what you need. Upon hearing these things I have wept over you…the child of my womb. You cannot know the way my heart cries out for you. You cannot understand the longings for you to be healthy, and successful. I have been overcome to know of your well-being, and so I have laid my hurt feelings aside about your choice to travel the world. Please send me news of your whereabouts, and the details of your journey. My mother’s heart cannot remain hard to you my son, instead I ask you to share your life with me and tell me more.
I am taking a moment to write to respond to your letter. I have been busy with many things. I have been swimming several times and seen some wildlife of these countries up close. I have learned much about the geology of the area. I have met many different kinds of people along my journey and tried some interesting kinds of food. I have found that our people do not understand my journey any better than you do, but do not worry my Roman citizenship has not been an issue, in fact it has been a help to me in some circumstances. I have visited some of the prisons to encourage those who are downtrodden. I have learned the value of hard work. One of the best things is that I have had many opportunities to camp along my way. It is a good thing for me to know tent making. Above all I have found that Jesus is guiding me every step of the way. I know that sounds like crazy talk to you Ima, but I ask that you trust me in this.
Paul (Yes I prefer Paul, but you can call me whichever you want.)
Notice that while his reply to his mother is measured and carefully written, his “blog” has significantly more detail.
“Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern? If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, He who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. In Damascus the ethnarch under Aretas the king was guarding the city of the Damascenes in order to seize me, and I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and so escaped his hands.” To be continued…
So as you can see WR parents, the issues we struggle with are not new. Missionary parents have dealt with them for a very long time. We worry about our kids; they respond very little, we have to learn from others the extent and details of their journeys…and so the story goes. The good news is that we are in good company and that there is much more going on than meets the eye. We will learn to trust G-d, and who knows…maybe our Racers will write a few books someday. 🙂