“Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death.”
II Cor 1:9
Paul and his companions could have chosen a line of work that was less dangerous physically and more rewarding financially. Indeed, that was something most people in their generation chose to do, if they had a choice at all.
Choosing to be a Christian during that time was, to a large extent, akin to choosing death, and deciding to become a missionary made premature death even more likely.
Paul knew very well what he was doing and must have felt frightened sometimes. Who wouldn’t be fearful in the face of death? Paul and his fellow missionaries were just flesh and blood, and evidently had every intention to prolong their lives in the world as long as they possibly could.
What difference was there between them and ordinary people like you and me? Was their flesh made of steel and their blood cold as ice, entirely unfazed by the burning heat of trials?
They willingly submitted their bodies to be burned because the love of God constrained them and the passion for lost souls captivated them. They marched into the lion’s den and the fiery furnace with their eyes wide opened and mind determined.
I wish that was something I had been commissioned to do. Perhaps it’s entirely possible that I was called, but was either too cowardly to obey or too immersed in worldly pleasure to hear the beckoning from above. Here I am, rapidly turning sixty, still feeling very much like a half-baked cake and lukewarm water, very much afraid to die yet much more afraid to live.
“I am old, I am old…”
I have been Eliot’s Prufrock who was afflicted by indecision and gnawed to the bone by inaction. No, becoming Michelangelo has never been my intention, but at least I should have started a grand scene or two instead of walking up and down the beach, listening to mermaids singing each to each.
Is it too late to take some action to correct my inaction? What should my action be if it must be enacted? Have I been acting one way or another in the past? Maybe I am just an actor who has been mourning about playing an insignificant role. Am I interpreting my dissatisfaction with my present situation as some sort of inaction?
I cannot be Paul because I haven’t been created to be and trying to be completely like the apostle may cause me more misery than joy. What good does it do if I submit my body to be burned, yet have no love?
I may have it all wrong, really. There is nothing wrong being J. Alfred Prufrock if I make every effort to love, or learn to love, and die loving. Not all people can be Michelangelo.