Sabbatical Lessons Learned Along the Journey – Rome
Rome: June 18-22
As time permits and as we have internet availability, I hope to chronicle some things from our sabbatical that we are learning along the way. Our first stop was Rome.
Here are few things I was reminded of and learned…
1. The depravity of man – We landed early on Wednesday, got settled into our B&B and hit the town running. Our first stop – the San Sebastián Catacombs. The catacombs were a series of underground tunnels established by the early Christians both for refuge from persecution and for burial of their dead. There are miles and miles of tunnels. Linda and I took a metro train and then a bus to the site. Because we were still learning our way around we got off at the wrong place and then had to walk about a mile+ up the Appian Way… in the rain… to get there. I paid, we went in, saw the catacombs then boarded a bus to head back into town. It was not until later that realized I was missing my wallet. We had been told to be careful of pickpockets in Rome – evidently I was not careful enough. Gone on our first day was my wallet, drivers license, 2 credit cards and about $200 in cash. Not the way I wanted to start the trip. But it was a lesson I was reminded of. Man is depraved – morally corrupt and wicked and desperately in need of God. I should not be surprised by the theft. I should really be surprised that it has not happened more often because the basic nature of man apart from God is not goodness but wickedness.
2. The value of good friends – One of the things we had been looking forward to about this trip was the opportunity to spend 3 days with our friends Tom and Sonya Holloway who are missionaries serving in Slovakia. They flew down to join us and we spent 3 very full days walking the city, talking, dining at various trattorias, seeing the sites and eating gelato. It was fun to reconnect with them, picking up where we left off the last time we saw them. Good friends are a great blessing from God.
3. The difference between religion and a relationship with God – On our first day with the H’s we spend much of the day down around the Coliseum. So much to see around there as it is the area where the city of Rome was originally settled and established. One of the places we visited was the building next to the Church of San Giovanni which houses the Scala Sancta – or the Holy Stairs. Tradition says that these were the stairs that Jesus walked up and down upon his visit with Pilate prior to the crucifixion. Supposedly, Helen, the mother of Emperor Constantine, had them moved from Jerusalem to Rome in the 4th century. Today pilgrims ascend these steps on their knees praying as they go, hoping that this will win them favor with God. Martin Luther reputedly had an “AHA” moment as he made a pilgrimage here in 1511. As I watched hundreds of very sincere people work their way up the steps I was again reminded how grateful I am that I don’t have to do anything to curry favor with God. He sought me out, He rescued me, He gave me new life, He poured out His grace and mercy and forgiveness upon me. I was dead. He made me alive and initiated a relationship with me that is meant for my good and for His glory. I don’t have to do a bunch of religious stuff to have right standing with God. This is what He did for me through Christ.
4. From time to time it is good to “contemplate our own mortality” – On our 2nd day with the H’s we did the Borghese Gallery, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Hadrian’s Tomb, and The Jewish Ghetto among other things. The Spanish Steps have been a popular hangout for romantics over the years. The British poet John Keats ” pondered his mortality” here and then died of tuberculosis at the age of 25. So I took a cue from him and did some pondering as well, which I am famous for anyway. In some respects I believe I am living on borrowed time…but then aren’t we all. God has graciously given us Today. It behooves me to make the most of it as THE day draws near. Having recently celebrated yet another birthday (#56) I am keenly aware that life is fleeting. May God grant me wisdom to live the rest of my days with joyful intentionality as I look forward to the future.
5. The Christian walk is a great adventure that is joyfully exhausting – We only had 3 days in Rome (which was plenty) but spent most of those 3 days walking… and walking… and walking. I had just gotten a Fitbit for my birthday – a social networking gizmo that measures how many steps you take in a day – so I was somewhat motivated to walk. But maybe not quite as much as we did. I was exhausted at the end of each day. But glad we had seen so much and experienced so much. The Christian life is described as a walk. It is for movers, not sitters. And joy in the journey comes from a daily, steady, deliberate, intentional walk. Those who sit around and do nothing would have a hard time finding joy in the journey – because the journey would be non existent.
These are my ponderings from Rome.
Next Stop: Sorrento.