Lauren and Mikaela--identical twins living on opposite coasts--blog about the story of life and their adventures in faith.

7.15.2011

Her Passion

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She was just an average young woman who was standing in line.  She was about twenty-two, and from a well-off family.  She was the mother of a dark-haired,precocious baby boy, and she loved her husband and son with all of her heart.  She had dreams just like the rest of us.  She was going to homeschool her son, so that he would not be indoctrinated by the state schools.  She was going to take care of her parents in their old age, and let her son take care of her in hers.  She dreamed of seeing her parents find the faith that she had.  She was going to make a difference in her country, which was fast sliding into the swamp of depravity and debauchery.  She hated the abortion that was so commonplace, and passionately wanted to see it ended. 
 
She was a follower of Jesus—a Christian.
 The line was moving now, the five other people surrounding Perpetua walking with firm, decisive steps.  The lights began to glare, and the noise began to batter her ears so excruciatingly that nausea dropped like a curtain over her.  Her husband’s gentle smile floated into her mind, and then the picture of that day when she had decided to take the step of baptism and had joined the requisite classes.  It had been a sunlit day, and yet she remembered holding her baby boy close for an eternity that evening, while a tear or two dropped upon his velvet cheek. 
Perpetua felt a shove from behind and stumbled.  The crowd roared even more, and as she lifted up her intent eyes to meet the stare of the people in the stadium, they could not hold her gaze, and they turned away uncomfortably.  A few of them Perpetua recognized as friends of her parents, and the realization overwhelmed her with the memory of the last time she had seen her father. 
It was at the sentencing, after she had been imprisoned for her faith in Jesus Christ.  Each one of her friends was thrown in front of the governor.  Each one was asked, “Will you sacrifice in worship to the Emperor?”  Each one raised their bruised heads and replied in as ringing a tone as they could muster, “No; I am a Christian, and Christ is Lord.” 
It was finally Perpetua’s turn, and as the guard prodded her in the back with the edge of his sword, she wet her dry lips, prepared to seal her death sentence for Christ.  But suddenly, her father had rushed in, carrying her precious son.  He grabbed her, and his faded eyes gazed with intense love into hers as he begged, “Perpetua, perform the sacrifice. Have pity on your baby!” 

The governor saw an opportunity and added his voice to her father’s: “Have pity on your father’s grey head; have pity on your infant son. Offer the sacrifice for the welfare of the Emperor.”

Most compelling of all, her baby boy held out his arms to her with a heart-wrenching cry. 

And though tears had filled her own eyes, Perpetua turned from the easy choice, putting life behind her for once and for all, and said decisively, “I will not.” 

“Are you a Christian then?” asked the governor.

“Yes I am,” Perpetua replied without a moment’s hesitation, her clear eyes pinning him with that same intense stare. 

And with that, she sealed her fate, even as her father was beaten for desperately appealing to his daughter one last time. 

And now, condemned to die, this Carthaginian girl, barely in the bloom of womanhood, was striding onto the stage of her own death, the trench for her own blood, the arena of her brutal martyrdom for the entertainment of hundreds of heartless people.            

And through all of these memories, the words of a psalm pierced Perpetua’s soul with their comfort and appeal to God, and this young woman on the brink of death began to sing.  At first, the onlookers hardly noticed, so hoarse and quiet was her lone voice, but it only took a few measures before all six of the condemned were pouring their hearts out to God through the simple psalm.  A few of the watchers paused, wondering where that faint yet sweet melody could be coming from, and the voices of Perpetua and her fellow Christians rang as they marched to the death. 

Witnesses described Perpetua in the arena as “young and beautiful”, “a pure and modest Christian lady”, “with shining countenance and calm step, as the beloved of God, as a bride of Christ.” 

And she was only twenty-two.  Shortly before this day at the stadium, Perpetua wrote, “I understood that I should fight, not with beasts but against the devil; but I knew that mine was the victory.” 

To the bloodthirsty screams of the onlookers, the Christians were beaten.  To their violence-lusting shrieks a wild heifer was let loose to charge the group of Christians, and Perpetua was hurtled onto her back.  To the audience’s maniacal chants for more, a leopard was released into the stadium, and blood did begin to flow, but not fast enough for the audience.   To their murderous shouts, Perpetua was hauled up, barely conscious, and lined up with the other five bloodied Christians.  Then they were murdered by the sword, and then the audience’s insatiable bloodlust was satisfied momentarily.    

Perpetua’s body lay lifeless and still on the arena floor, her spirit in Heaven in the presence of the Lord she refused to deny.  But the testimony of that bloody and battered body still speaks, over 1800 years later.  And the testimony in her own words of her martyrdom and unfailing allegiance to Christ she wrote for us, her sisters and brothers in Christ centuries removed, as if to say, “Make Christ the Lord of your life, dear ones, and care not for this short breath of time on earth.” 

She wrote of her death, “It will all happen in the prisoner's dock as God wills, for you may be sure that we are not left to ourselves but are all in his power.”  She was only twenty-two, and Christ was the Lord of her life and her death.   

Read Perpetua's journal from prison, The Passion of Saints Perpetua and Felicity , recounting her imprisonment, and the testimony of her martyrdom from a fellow Christian. This account is one of the earliest pieces of writing by a Christian woman.

A Christianity Today Article with more information on this incredible woman of God. 

11 comments:

  1. Thank you so much Lauren. This is heart-wrenchingly beautiful.

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  2. Wow. That was an incredible retelling, Lauren.
    Thanks very much for blessing us with it.

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  3. Brings tears to my eyes......may I be as faithful!

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  4. Thanks for posting this. It's sometimes hard to imagine what people like this must feel like in making their choice, but I think you've portrayed it here really realistically.

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  5. Lauren, this is absolutely breathtaking.

    Thank you, thank you for a beautifully sobering piece.

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  6. That was fantastic! Incredibly thought provoking. This is the first time I have seen your blog and it is really wonderful.

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  7. what a challenge! Thank you for sharing...may we strive to be lights like this for Christ!
    blessings from a sister in Christ,
    ~Charis

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  8. Wow. Powerfully written, Lauren.

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  9. Becsy--You're welcome! As soon as I heard this story last week, I knew I had to share it with others!
    Penn--Thank you for your sweet words! The life of this incredible woman almost makes me want to name a daughter "Perpetua" someday! (-:
    Elizabeth--Amen and amen!
    Jenna--Thank you so much! When I began thinking about Perpetua, I realized that in so many ways she and her circumstances were not that much different from me! And then in other ways, they seem worlds apart, but I know that within a few centuries at the most, Christians in America will face the same threat of death for their faith.
    Jasmine--Thank you for your sweet, encouraging words! How can we falter when we have the legacy of such a dear sister in Christ to encourage us?
    Shelby--Thank you so much for reading and commenting! I love meeting new readers!
    Charis--Amen! Perpetua was a true firebrand, wasn't she!
    Samantha--Thank you, sister! Perpetua lived a powerful life, so it isn't hard to write inspiringly of it! (-:

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  10. Wow, Lauren, I am nearly speechless by reading of this young woman's incredible faith and courage. Thank you so much for sharing her story.

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  11. I haven't been reading any blogs lately because I've just had alot going on in my life, but I'm glad I read this today. It gave me goosebumps and put tears in my eyes. I will be 22 next month, and I want to be a strong woman of faith like Perpetua--she has been one of my heroes since I first heard about her a year ago. You wrote this really beautifully--it was very moving.

    Also, I wanted to share with you guys what's been happening in my life, so you can praise God with me, and also pray for me.
    I had a car accident about a month ago, in which I hit a deer, lost control, flipped and rolled our mini van into a deep ditch. The van was totaled but in God's mercy I was able to walk away without a scratch. It was a really traumatic experience for me though, and I've had a lot of psychological/emotional trauma plus physical aches I've been dealing with for the last 4 weeks, but with God's help I'm getting through it.

    The policeman said if I had not been wearing my seat-belt, the accident would likely have been fatal...thank God for a mom who taught me to always wear my seat-belt!
    I truly thought I was going to die while I was rolling down the embankment of the ditch; I remember thinking "there is no way this vehicle is not going to crush me." And while I was READY to die, as in I know I would've gone to Heaven, I didn't feel READY to die. I felt like there was so much I would've done differently if I had known I only would have 21 years to live. There were so many choices and decisions I would have liked to go back and make better, and I would have wanted to have lived entirely for God's glory instead of sometimes for my own self.
    More than anything else ever could, this experience of facing death has caused me to analyze myself and really grasp the fact that today could very well be my last day.
    None of us are invincible, or guaranteed another 65 years of life, no matter that we're in the prime of our life and have everything in our life under control. I knew that before, in my head, but now I certainly know it in my heart, and I will never be the same. Since I am still here on earth, I know God has plans for me that aren't completed yet. I hope that from this day forward I will live with intentional purpose, knowing this is a day God has ordained me to live, for a reason.

    I know God had many purposes in letting this happen to me, and I have seen His mercies so strongly, everywhere. He didn't "un-protect" me for one second...it wasn't like He slipped up, He had me in His Hand every second.
    He made sure I didn't roll into the gully of water 50 feet up the road; He made the van stop rolling right side up; He made sure I was driving alone that night when I originally wasn't supposed to be; He provided the gentlemanly young man driving behind me to help me and keep me calm; He gave me incredible parents who remained gracious and sweet even when insurance didn't cover anything; He sent my best friend to tough-love me when I was overwhelmed with depression; He helped us find a new van within two weeks of the accident.... My cup of blessings is full, and overflowing.

    He is Worthy.

    Love to you,
    Kelsey :o)

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