A Great Persecution Broke Out

I have always been fascinated by our propensity to remain in spaces that, if not exactly destructive (though they are often that), they are at the very least not working for us. I usually ask it like this: “I wonder why he/she stays there/continues to do that when they KNOW it’s wrong for them,” and I say it less with wonder than annoyance. The good news is that the “he/she” part is immediately replaced with “we,” because it doesn’t take long for me to remember.

I stayed at a job years after I knew it was time to go. I had relationships for far longer than either of us would’ve categorized as healthy. In almost every area of my life, I can point to patterns that existed past their obvious expiration date. You probably can, too. Not because you and I are particularly unique, but the opposite. This is a human problem that has been a thorn forever.

There’s an interesting passage in the Bible that illustrates this better than our unfulfilling jobs or broken relationships or pointless routines ever could.

That last words Jesus says, in Acts 1:7, are “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Essentially, GO and tell everybody everywhere about me and this divine love. And then, in chapter 7, they are STILL in Jerusalem! Now, this was good because the number of disciples in Jerusalem was increasing daily, but this was not good because it was a violation of the specific command of Jesus. Chapter 7 details the murder of Stephen and then chapter 8 starts with this easily overlooked phrase: “on that day a great persecution broke out.” They wouldn’t go, so they were forced to go and then the story of the Church, of us, really begins. Without that great persecution, without those disciples telling everybody everywhere, who knows?

I don’t like to leave until there is a great persecution, either. Aadam Ali (on Physiqonomics) says often, in the context of health and fitness, that nobody changes until the pain of staying the same outgrows the pain of change. This is absolutely true, right?

How many of us are bored, tired, rudderless, aimless, just trying to get through another day with no challenge or big ask of us? Well, there is one challenge; get through another day and not let our soul wilt any more. Sometimes, as in my case, I used to drive to work miserable with a dream in my heart that I couldn’t/wouldn’t pursue. And why? Comfortability, stability, I had been there so long, knew the job inside out, complacency… The driving force behind all of it is fear. What if I can’t get another job? What if I don’t get another girlfriend? What if I’m alone for the rest of my life, living in a car under a bridge by a filthy river thinking about this moment when I threw it all away?

Of course, there is selfless responsibility and seasons in our lives where we are in valuable places, learning and growing. But my guess is that we mostly know the difference.

You may have heard some variation on this a hundred times from me, but today, this week, all of this is simply a way to celebrate my mom.

Now, my mom is the greatest. She strong, courageous, loyal and the most generous person I have ever known. If you know her, you know this, but what you don’t know is that she gave her 2 weeks notice at her job earlier this week. In our conversation where I told her how proud of her I am, she confessed that she was terrified and was full of second guesses. Faith is like this. It’s why the disciples didn’t leave until chapter 8.

Am I doing the right thing???? What if? What if? WHAT IF?????

In this same conversation, we spoke about her selling that house (the one I grew up in, that she has lived in for 35 years) and moving, too! Can you imagine the automatic negative thoughts in her head? Me, too. We don’t have to imagine, right?

And she did it anyway. Courage isn’t the absence of fear, it’s acting in spite of that monster. This is yet another example of how she’s inspired me in a list of a million. I’ve always wanted to be as beautiful as my mom when I grow up, and never more than right now.

When the disciples finally left, that proved to light the fire that still burns, still changing the world 2,000 years later. Every time I see an act of courage like this, taking steps in the darkness, I lean in and ask, wide-eyed and breathless, what amazing thing is God going to do here? And you know what? Almost every time it’s so much better than I could have ever imagined.

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