I am honored to have Tanya share her heart and wisdom with us. I appreciate her deep love for the Lord and desire to live for Him with everything she has and is.
Tanya Marlow was formerly in Christian ministry for a decade and was Associate Director and lecturer for a university-level Bible training course. Now she reads Bible stories to her toddler as she learns what it means to be a mum who is housebound with an autoimmune illness. She blogs at Thorns and Gold, on the Bible, Suffering, and the messy edges of life. Follow Tanya on Twitter and visit and like her Facebook page.
I have worn glasses since I was four. Back then, they were a National Health Service (UK) cheapy-cheap granny-pink colour.
I'm not going to lie - they did not look good. But they were essential, because I really was as blind as a bat.
Every morning I wake up and I look around at blurry, indistinct shapes. If I take my glasses off and look at the screen I can't see any letters at all. It looks mysterious and squiggly, like an Arabic script. (It's quite fun to try it if you are similarly short-sighted!)
I need help seeing physically. But sometimes we also need help seeing spiritually. And Paul is a great person to learn from.
Paul, in Acts 17:16, had just come from a fairly traumatic time, being chased out of Thessalonica and then Berea, and separated from his friends, Silas and Timothy. He was left in Athens to wait for them.
"While Paul was waiting for them in Athens..." (Acts 17:16a)
I don't know about you, but if I were Paul, I would have been tempted to just enjoy the unexpected holiday. He was in Athens, seat of culture and philosophical sophistication.
I lived in Oxford, England for 6 years, and I imagine Athens at that time to be very similar to Oxford. There are historic buildings everywhere, and awesome libraries, and every coffee shop you enter you can hear the buzz of students discussing politics and religion and the meaning of life. The ratio of discussions of mathematical theorems to gossip about boys and lipstick is a pretty high one.
I loved living in Oxford as a student minister, but I was also often intimidated by it. What on earth did I have to offer these students, who were so intelligent? How on earth could I begin to communicate their need for Christ when they seemed so sorted and to have everything they needed?
If I had been in Athens, I think this is what I would have seen. I would have seen the excitement of being in a new place. I would have been wowed by the culture. I would have seen the things that would have intimidated me and kept me silent. I would have seen the chance to relax and have a break.
But Paul has 20:20 spiritual vision. He didn't see these things: he saw something else.
"While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols." (Acts 17:16 NIV)
Where I would see culture and sophistication, Paul saw idols. Paul saw spiritual need. Paul saw a people who were built for worship, but were grasping for God in the wrong places. He saw, and he felt distressed - and so he spoke.
In order to get confident about sharing the good news of Jesus with others, we need to first sort out our vision, not our words. We need to see the glory of God, and feel the distress of our campuses, cities and nations being so full of idols. We need to pray to God for spiritual clarity, to see past the differences of culture, the obstacles to faith, to see with His eyes.
Over to you: