There were several aspects of my trip to Greece to study Paul’s New Testament Letters that were unexpected, unanticipated, and (in a few instances) even downright unwelcome.
Alternately, as I read through many of the thoughts that I penned during my stolen moments on the bus or just before bed, I also found several occurrences of this phrase (typically after a paragraph or two of recounted expectations that I didn’t even realize I had brought with me):
“Expectation not met.”
But although I was stripped of many expectations, when it came to my experiences at the ruins of ancient sites with clear Biblical and Pauline ties, I can’t even find the words to fully express how my expectations were not met. . .rather, they were surpassed. exceeded. overwhelmed.
“Expectation not met.”
One day – around the beginning of our second week – while reflecting on several of these Biblical sites, I wrote it this way:
“My mind and my heart feel SO full it’s as if my thoughts and reactions can’t even be expressed intelligently.”
And honestly, I still feel that way much of the time. But I’m beginning to realize that I may not be able to fully process some of my experiences until a later date…perhaps when I’m more able and equipped to deal with the reality of the resulting conviction…perhaps when I’m in need of encouragement to endure through an all-pervasive desert…perhaps in a moment when I’m asked to go beyond myself and reach someone else.
We visited Philippi on the second full day of the trip, and it was pretty much amazing! On our three hour bus ride to the site, we had the privilege of hearing Elizabeth read Philippians 2:5-11 in Greek before Dr. Sean (our professor) led a discussion regarding the significance of self-sacrificing love and service based on the same passage. . .all while passing by traditional white-washed, red-roofed houses beside the lake to the right and several sheep herds on the hillsides to the left.
From the ruins of the marketplace, the church, the gymnasium, and the bathhouses to Paul’s prison and the nearby theater, this was one of the first moments where I began to see Scripture realized in a whole new way. See Acts 16:16-40.
While standing in the middle of the ancient Agora, I experienced yet another powerful moment of Scripture realized as I looked up to my right at Mar’s Hill and looked up to my left at the Acropolis and knew Paul stood in the midst of all this, too. Intensely working. Selflessly serving. Compassionately ministering. Fiercely loving. Fully living. Boldly proclaiming. See Acts 17:16-34.
5:17am came much too early, but Ephesus was totally worth it!
The whole site is only 10% excavated, but because it’s so well preserved, you don’t have to stretch your imagination too far to see the clearly identifiable roads, structures, and layout of the city.
As I visualized and contextualized familiar Scripture and Paul’s life and journey came to a fuller reality in my mind, I was encouraged and challenged to live fully and walk boldly in my faith. To imitate Christ as Paul did. . .proclaiming the gospel whenever and wherever possible. Even if that means being willing to approach a riot in a theater that holds 25,000 people. See Acts 19.
From celebrating communion…
…to hiking the Acrocorinth…
…to completing our study of 1 Corinthians by studying chapters 15-16 under the shade trees in the ancient site, spending all day at Corinth on our next to last day in Greece, in a place that Paul knew well (see Acts 18), left me admiring and connecting with Paul’s faith, heart, and message more than ever:
“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”
1 Corinthians 11:1 (ESV)