March, can you believe it is already here! It was just yesterday we were shooting fireworks off for New Years. What is March known for? The beginning of spring, the beginning of lent, March Madness and also Saint Patrick?s day.
Most of us know and celebrate St. Patrick on his big day in the States. I remember learning the hard way as a kid to not forget his holiday (not wearing green resulted in what felt like a million little pinch marks left on my arm after a full day at school), but I never really looked into why we celebrate the holiday. It?s really easy to stick this celebration into some of our more side-stepped holidays (like Lincoln?s Birthday and Columbus Day), but the more I looked into it, the more I realized that Saint Patrick has a story much like mine.
I?m going to assume that you already know Saint Patrick?s life. (If you don?t know his bio, you can click here to see a quick video overview of his story.)
So, how DOES the story of this religious leader who went through kidnapping, slavery, starvation, and ordained priesthood relate to us? How does his story remind us of who we are in Christ?
First, there?s a lot to relate with him if you?re a Christian in general.
He grew up in a Christian-based home (his father was a deacon and his grandfather a priest; I personally grew up with pastors in my family tree, too).
In times of struggles and hardship, he turned to prayer (his kidnapping proved to be quite the test, and many believed he was not an active believer during this time).
He prayed all the time, like many of us do throughout the day.
He had a heart to minister to people, where we too, as Christians, are called to do through the Great Commission.
Second, he was forced into a new environment where he had to fend for himself.
I?m sure you?d be with me when I say that I personally have not been forced into a new country and slavery life.
BUT, I have had to learn a totally new environment where I had to fend for myself. For me, this was in college at the University of Arkansas where I walked onto the football team. At that time, it was a new coaching staff, and they didn?t want anything to do with walk-ons. I didn?t have any of my friends nor family there to help me fight. I had to learn a new world that I have not experienced yet up until that point.
Can you think of a moment where you had to ?fend for yourself?? Was it moving to a new town after a job change? Standing firmly in what you believed in even when your closest friends disagreed?
In those moments, God can seem so far away, as I?m sure St. Patrick felt. How comforting it is to know that God was as close to us then as He is when we no longer had to ?fend for ourselves.?
Third, later in Saint Patrick?s life, he felt a calling to do something differently.
Can you imagine the weight it must have felt the moment Saint Patrick realized that God was telling him to return to a place that he ran from? And not just go back, but to win their hearts for Christ?
You see, the Irish people could not grasp the concept of the trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) who are said to be all God. To the Irish, it sounded like polytheism (the belief in or worship of more than one god). Worshiping more than one god was not new to them, but for multiple gods to be one god made no sense at all. (I mean, I still marvel at how it works, and I believe in it!)
Despite any pushback that might have weighed on him, St. Patrick followed that calling. He knew he had to do something different. He gave God glory through ALL things, he kept his abiding relationship with Him and sought to do Gods will in his life. God blessed his obedience by using his childhood upbringing Christian education along with the six years of slavery in Ireland learning the people so that he can combine both of those together. He combined what he knew so that all of Ireland would learn about the true God. He even found a way into the heart of the Irish by taking a complex idea of the Trinity ? Father, Son and Holy Spirit, into something easy to comprehend. He used the three-leaf clover that was a symbol in the country to show how the three leaves are the Trinity but are all one body. This was the teaching they needed to truly learn about Christianity.
I know most of us have not been called back to a country that forced us into slavery, but I do feel a calling where God has placed me to be a missionary for Him. How many people do you come into contact with each day? How many of them are able to see God through who you are, your actions or even your responses to them?
Even if it?s not another country, God has called you to be a missionary for Him. He?s calling you every day to that place. Is it at the kid?s PTO meetings? On the church?s nursery team? Maybe even the mission field is your home (by inviting women and families into your house).
As the holiday of green creeps up slowly, may we be reminded while prepping the celebration of Saint Patrick to do these things like he did:
– To pray, AND listen. Rumor has it that Saint Patrick spent many of his slavery years feeding pigs and shepherding. Imagine how much time alone he must have had to listen while he prayed! We too must take time to not just talk to God (in a one-way conversation), but to LISTEN to him as well.
– To follow WITHOUT questions. I can only dream of what doubt Saint Patrick had to wrestle with as he debated returning from the very country that enslaved him. But like we mentioned earlier, God blessed his following. I wonder what would happen if we just followed Christ?s calling without worrying or questioning?
– To NOT fear. Saint Patrick?s life was full of many ups and downs. Yet all the stories and writings by him show no fear of where the Lord has placed him. We too should walk in confidence that the Lord has us right where He wants us, and we should rejoice for where we are.
I hope you are encouraged by his story, and enjoy his holiday well this year (and don?t forget to wear green!)
– Stephen Barnett
Co-written by my wife, Andrea Barnett