One night, I found my daughter sitting on her bed disoriented and crying. I said, “Joelle, Appa is here. Do you need anything?” She fought through her tears saying, “I lost Amma” to which my wife quickly replied, “I am here. I have been here with you this whole time.” Assured, it was only a matter of minutes, before Joelle went back to sleep again.
In the disorienting darkness and eerie quiet of the night, Joelle thought and felt that she had lost her Amma. But in reality, her Amma was with her, and her Amma didn't lose her. Re-storying her story into a larger story gave her the comfort and courage to live through her present circumstance.
In Acts 14, we see Paul and Barnabas experience life’s ups and downs. One day they were praised and embraced and welcomed by people. The next day, they were marginalized and humiliated and attacked by the very same people. This reminds us of another crowd that we often reflect on during the Lenten season that cried ‘Hosanna to the King’ one moment and ‘crucify him’ the next.
In the context of the Jesus story, things like success, charisma, praise, crowds, humiliation, suffering are fleeting. Because Paul and Barnabas remembered this, they refused to let the many praises they received get to their head and the fierce criticism that came their way get to their heart.
Sometimes, in the thick of the praise and criticism we get, we are unable to re-story our story in the Jesus story using our own strength. This is why the word gather, which shows up twice in this chapter, is significant. Once, when Paul was laying on the ground beaten and bruised, we read that the disciples gathered around him to comfort and encourage him. Another time when Paul reached Antioch, we read that he gathered the local church together to tell them what God had done through them.
When we gather together and gather around in the midst of our ups and downs, successes and failures, accomplishments and struggles, we are reminded that our stories are wrapped up in Jesus’ story. And this ultimately gives us meaning, purpose, perspective, hope, comfort, and courage to live in the present.
May we never give up the practice of gathering together and gathering around each other as it forms us to live into the Jesus story.