When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, Paul and some other prisoners were handed over to a centurion named Julius, who belonged to the Imperial Regiment. We boarded a ship from Adramyttium about to sail for ports along the coast of the province of Asia, and we put out to sea. Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, was with us. The next day we landed at Sidon; and Julius, in kindness to Paul, allowed him to go to his friends so they might provide for his needs. From there we put out to sea again and passed to the lee of Cyprus because the winds were against us. When we had sailed across the open sea off the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we landed at Myra in Lycia. There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy and put us on board. We made slow headway for many days and had difficulty arriving off Cnidus. When the wind did not allow us to hold our course, we sailed to the lee of Crete, opposite Salmone. We moved along the coast with difficulty and came to a place called Fair Havens, near the town of Lasea. – Acts 27:1-8
I went to college at Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA. Just south of Bellingham was a town named Fair Haven, just like the final stopping place of Paul from n this passage. We lived in a rickety old house halfway between Bellingham and Fairhaven. The house hade three floors and the occupants on the third floor swore the house swayed in the wind. We lived on the ground level so thankfully we missed these windy wanderings. I was almost crushed one time attempting to help move a sleeper sofa to the third floor apartment.
Bellingham was a college town, at least near campus. The coffee shops, pizza joints, and ice cream parlors were infused with the seasonal stress induced by exams, papers, and projects. Fairhaven was far enough from campus to avoid many of these academic ailments. It was near this quiet and quant village, at a place called Post Point, that I asked a beautiful young lady to marry me and join me on life’s journey – “me” became “we”.
My future wife and I would walk down the hill to Fairhaven for ice cream, donuts, and all manner of digestive distraction. One of our favorite haunts was a place called simply Tony’s Coffee. We would spend hours nestled into a corner nursing a shared pot of Earl grey or English Breakfast tea. This was before Starbucks and Bigbys. It was a cozy place where the consumption of caffeine was secondary to the soul supercharging that occurred there. It provided a refuge and brief sabbatical from the stress and rigors of campus life.
In many ways it seems like Paul’s setting out to sea for Rome was a bit like our trips to Fairhaven. He was leaving the stressful stonings and imprisonment of the Sadducees and Pharisees for the relative reasonableness of Rome. Although a prisoner, Paul must have felt some sense of relief to escape the religious leaders and ridicule of the Sanhedrin. Paul needed a sabbatical and I think it took this sea voyage to get him there, physically and mentally.
My wife and I escaped to Fairhaven to get out of the college life and interact with “real” people. Most of the people in Fairhaven were not college students and thus not subject to final exams and homework. I think Paul’s “escape” to Rome was similar not n that most of the people he would encounter in Rome were not Jews or Christians. It gave him an opportunity to step back from his work as an apologist among religious sceptics to argue the case for Jesus among “real” people. I suspect this rejuvenated his rhetoric and kept him on his theological toes. Paul will have many opportunities to share the Good News of Jesus and plant the seeds that will one day transform the Roman empire and give rise to the Roman Catholic church.
As I reflect on this trip I think it was for Paul a bit like a sabbatical is for academic professors – a chance to slow down and reflect on what is important and take some time for self care. Of course Paul was not exactly on this trip by choice, but God clearly had a plan. It is reassuring to know that even amidst circumstances that appear from an earthly perspective to be scary and dangerous God is still at the helm of the ship and He will take us where we need to go.
Prayer: God help us to trust You – confident that You know where we are headed and will lead us there.