I hear their voices
I do not believe I have publicly shared about my faith through writing so this is a first.
I walked into youth group once and noticed there were no chairs out. We worshipped and then were asked to sit on the floor. The pastor lit a candle and cracked opened a book, Jesus Freaks.
He began reading story after story about persecuted Christians. I wept. These stories were of teenagers who stood up for a God they had never seen yet had faith in. These stories made me uncomfortable but something stirred up inside of me. I subscribed to The Voice of the Martyrs; I had to hear more stories. I was obsessed. I could not get enough. Sounds morbid, but the reality is these stories raised tons of questions:
-Did I know their same God?
-What did they know about God that I didn’t?
-Would I be willing to die for my beliefs?
-Maybe they knew something about God or had seen God in such a way that I hadn’t?
I pressed in. I dug deeper into my faith. I went to The Voice of the Martyrs Conference; I heard stories of survivors. I saw individuals that live in hiding because they escaped prison or near death situations. They wore scars that spoke of unfathomable pain; their families wore partial smiles of relief.
Today, I read an article about the murders on the Ivory Coast. The article I read was secular but there was a paragraph that shared a story of two boys on the beach praying. The Christian boy was shot dead.
I quickly remembered the martyrs. The ordinary individuals, the ones with families and jobs, many living in developing countries where religious persecution too often leads to death. (I do understand persecution happens in Western societies and I do understand it extends past religion. For the sake of this topic and my experience today, I am choosing to keep my focus narrow). I recalled the stories, not of the missionaries or evangelist who chose to move to another country; I honor and value those brave souls but again, I want to focus on the natives of the land. The reason the missionaries and evangelist moved, the individuals that are embracing the gospel; the ones dying after converting.
The stories vary widely. There are some of parents who denied their faith to save their children. There are stories of children dying in front of their parents because of their refusal to deny their beliefs leaving their parents barren. I think of these souls; I consider them, their lives, but more so, their relationship with Jesus.
I have had some pretty incredible supernatural experiences. I value each and everyone of my encounters and my Christian walk, however, I think about being in the positions some of these individuals have been in or have died during and I weep. I try to imagine one of my future children being questioned about their faith by a man/woman with a gun to their head and I cringe.
I keep reading their stories. I am inspired by them and to be completely honest, I still wonder if these individuals know God better than I do. I wonder if maybe they caught a glimpse of another reality that I have not captured. Mainly, I wonder how they can love Jesus so much. This causes me to press in, to position my heart in such a way that I won’t miss Him in the wind or in the change of the weather. I catch glimpses of Him and if you were to ask me I would say I am fully in love. I grieve on Good Friday as I consider His pain; I sob at 3pm as I allow His reality on the cross to sink in. I love Resurrection Sunday because the idea of Him living forever makes joy spring up from within. I do love Him. I always will. Simultaneously, I will always live in the tension of knowing that someone else loved Him so much they were willing to suffer and even die before rejecting Him. I allow these souls to challenge me, to bring me to my knees and to say…
“God, I want to love you so much I am ok with being uncomfortable, inconvenienced and to even have my life threatened for the sake of knowing you. I want to love you as much as you loved me. I want to love you so much that rejecting you would never be an option.”
To the martyrs: I remember you. The Voice of the Martyrs is sharing your stories and your act of bravery will never be ignored or forgotten. Your lives have challenged me to grow and to learn but more importantly to love Jesus more than I did yesterday, Thank You.