Read His Words Before Ours!
Trash littered the ravine.
The small stream that had carved its way through the space trickled over a hodge-podge collection of rocks and discarded waste. The ravine sides rose to host small homes built from cardboard, random pieces of wood, and anything else that could be used to create some sort of barrier from the elements. A small space, think the size of a large walk-in closet, is home for an entire family whose main meal of the day are mud cakes baked as the sun began to rise.
Welcome to Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
I had the opportunity to visit Haiti before the massive earthquake in 2010 that caused so much destruction. The impact of which played out in the media for all the world to see, but this is the picture that most readily comes to mind. I pray this vivid memory never fades.
My introduction to the community that lived surrounding the ravine came as I followed the missionary with whom we were working as she delivered medication to those in need. She was a force to be reckoned with and refused to hold back the hope she carried with her. In fact, I sensed the Lord whisper one of the most profound phrases to me as I stood there watching her interactions: messy hope.
Messy hope. My mind whirled as the truth of those words sunk deep into my heart. Spreading the hope of Christ would require my willingness to get messy. I could not reach those who desperately needed to experience Christ if I insistently clung to a mindset of avoiding uncomfortable interactions, being inconvenienced, or being unwilling to engage in conflict-laden scenarios. In that moment in the ravine, I understood the invitation that had just been placed before me. Was I willing to get messy for the Kingdom, to be uncomfortable, and be willing to go the extra step to meet others searching for the Light?
This moment in my history came to mind as I read another moment in history recorded in Acts 16. Paul and Silas found themselves in jail, praying and worshipping the Lord as they awaited next steps. In the midst of this, an earthquake shook the jail, the doors opened, and all restraints released. Now in every action movie I’ve ever seen, this is the cue for the entire prison population to escape as quickly and quietly as possible, especially since the jailer reportedly remained fast asleep through it all.
This, however, was not the response of Paul and Silas.
In fact, when the jailer awoke, Paul announced that everyone was still present.
The Word specifically mentions that the other prisoners were listening to Paul and Silas pray. This means that when those doors swung open and shackles dropped away, all the prisoners refrained from bolting for the door.
Scripture does not specify, but for me personally, if I had just heard two men praying and worshipping while incarcerated, they would have my attention. When the earthquake arrived and the doors shook open, I may have had the thought to bolt until I realized my chains were still solidly in place. However, when those unfastened — not just loosened from the wall, but unfastened — I would have been captivated to discover what happened next.
Something was different about these two men.
They obviously had some sort of connection to the God to whom they prayed.
So, when they remained in their cell, I probably would have too.
Maybe the reality of that much power caused a pause.
Maybe the story was just too intriguing to ignore.
Maybe God had so arrested the attention of the other prisoners, they simply could not tear their eyes away from the scene playing out before them.
Whatever the reason, all the prisoners were still present when the jailer awoke.
Now the jailer’s first response before hearing Paul’s announcement was to draw his sword to kill himself. Death was likely the outcome for this jailer by his superior had the prisoners truly made a getaway.
All hope was gone.
Until he heard the voice of Paul from within the jail, the gross, smelly, uncomfortable, foul cell. Instead of a clean escape, Paul and Silas chose the messy hope route.
This hospitality was not about presenting the best meals or making someone feel comfortable in your home. This hospitality was about creating a space for the hope of Christ to be presented, tasted, and seen, even in the midst of deplorable conditions.
The jailer, captivated by their bold declaration of the gospel, opens his own home to Paul and Silas. Through their interaction, the jailer’s hospitality, and Paul and Silas’ willingness to offer messy hope despite their circumstances, the entire household comes to the Lord.
So, my question for you, dear sister, is this:
What are your opportunities to offer messy hope?
We all have them, we just tend to excuse them away as messes to avoid. What if we, as a collective whole of Jesus-following-sisters, decided to intentionally enter into the mess, whatever it was, just like Jesus did for us?
I wonder who just might end up being rescued from their sin for eternity as a result!
Embracing God’s fullness in our lives is rooted in scripture and memorizing His word is vital to our continued growth and depth with Jesus. Tap and hold from your mobile device to download this week’s verse and make it your phone’s lockscreen!