Today’s devotion is written by Pastor Emily Sterling-Strongman.
I recently saw the movie Where the Crawdads Sing based on the novel of the same name. In the novel, the main character Kya is abandoned by her family when she is a young child. She grows up all alone in her family’s house in the coastal marshland of North Carolina. People in the nearby town reject her and mockingly refer to her as the “Marsh Girl.” She does not fit in. She does not go to school. She learns to fend for herself. An African American couple befriends her and looks out for her, but due to the segregation of the 1950s and 1960s they are also not accepted by the town’s white society. When Kya is a teenager, a local teenage boy and friend of her brother’s befriends her and teaches Kya how to read. He encourages her gifts as a naturalist and artist.
Years later, Kya is accused of murdering a privileged, wealthy young man in town. She is arrested and later stands trial. In the movie version, we see Kya in the courtroom with only her attorney on her side. The rest of the courtroom spectators are there to gawk at Kya and/or to support the family of the murdered young man. We feel for this isolated, misunderstood, and vulnerable young woman.
One day, the courtroom doors open and people file in to sit behind Kya in support and solidarity. The African American couple. Her book publisher. Her brother’s friend and his father. And finally, her long-lost brother. Kya is no longer alone. She has a community there to encourage her and to have her back. We can imagine how much their physical presence means to Kya. They sit behind her and support her until the verdict is read.
Our scripture passage for today shares the continuation of Paul’s journey to Rome. He has been on the island of Malta for 3 months until the weather and currents were favorable enough to continue the sea journey to Rome. Paul is still technically a prisoner and going to Rome to make his case before Caesar. He does not know what he will face in Rome. He does not know how Caesar will receive him. We can imagine that it is difficult for Paul to live in the midst of uncertainty.
Acts 28:15 says, that when Paul came to Rome, “the brothers and sisters there heard about us, they came as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. When Paul saw them, he gave thanks to God and was encouraged.” Fellow Christians, siblings in the Jesus Way, heard that Paul had arrived in Rome. They came out to meet Paul and to show him their support. Their physical presence reminded Paul that he was not alone. God was with him. Fellow believers were with him. Paul was encouraged. He gave thanks to God for these believers. The support and encouragement of other people did not solve the problem of Paul’s legal troubles. But, their physical presence reinforced Paul’s strength and filled him with hope. Their support helped Paul live into another day of uncertainty.
Throughout the books of Acts, we see the early church coming together to support and care for each other. The encouragement and sustenance found in the early church is not just a relic of the past. We can encourage each other in similar ways today. We can support and care for each through our physical presence with each other, though our prayers, through simple acts of kindness, and, if necessary, through our words. We can be the church for each other today.
Who has your back? Who has showed up for you in times when you were facing difficulty or uncertainty? How did their presence encourage you?
Who are you showing up for and supporting? How you being present with people when they are going through difficult seasons? You don’t even have to say anything – just show up and know that your physical presence is enough. God’s Spirit is with you and will work through you to encourage others.
Please share your ideas, thoughts, comments, and questions. We want to hear them!