“Heave ho,” the men chanted as they pushed the long poles through the shallow waters, their boats swollen with thousands of snails and mollusks. I was drawn to the bulging muscles and chests wet from the sweat of their labor. I forced myself to look away when my insides quivered. I’d made my choice. Purple was my life. Purple was the reason I lived, the way I supported my daughter.
I walked over to the women as they worked in front of the large pots. I took a snail and expertly pulled it from its shell and squirted out the precious purple. It still amazes me that it takes eight thousand of these creatures to make a gram of dye.
The environment light and joyful, I knew my workers loved me. Women sang and their children played hide-n-seek in and around the purple cloths that dried in the warm, salty breeze. I yearned for my own daughter as I watched them, but I was as driven by the purple.
Whenever possible, I traveled back to Phillipi to see Syntyche. Every time I walked up the path I heard her voice, “Mommy, I missed you.”
We hugged hard and long and then I pulled her away to show off the new gifts I’d brought from exotic places. I heard Euodia, our Jewish maid, in the background. She didn’t approve of these in our house: Spanish swords, crystal balls, magic beans, and charms. All I wanted to do was make my daughter’s loneliness go away. What little girl didn’t like treasures?
I never understood my daughter, though. “I don’t want all this, Mother. I want you. Please stay home.”
“I can’t,” I explained to her over and over. “Purple is what I work for, Darling. It’s what provides you a royal life, one of leisure. I want you to have what I never did.”
When time for me to go, Euodia and Syntyche watched me until I turned and waved. Euodia’s prayers to her God echoed in my ears. She thought I strived for wealth too hard.
She would say, “A rich life isn’t worth the price of this precious child.”
It wasn’t long before I took heed to Euodia’s words.
My daughter gave up on me. Who knew those gifts would be her downfall, a sorcerer’s education? She ran away to fill her appetite with wickedness, not unlike my appetite for the color purple. She is her mother’s daughter.
Overcome with grief, Euodia’s prayers finally sunk into my broken heart. “Please take me where you worship,” I begged. I heard the Lord’s voice there and became a God-follower.
One Sabbath day, a man of God named Paul, came to the river. I listened to him speak of Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross for sinners such as I. When he taught about baptism, I almost jumped with joy. I was first in line to be plunged into the cool waters. I felt a heavy weight lift. Hope and joy filled me. I knew that God had been preparing me for such a time as this.
Another Sabbath, my heart burst with expectancy. I couldn’t wait to get to our place of prayer, but along the way I heard a familiar voice. A teenage girl, a fortune teller, tagged alongside Paul. “These men are servants of God. They are telling you how to be saved.”
I gasped. In spite of her wild appearance, I knew my daughter as only a mother can. Syntyche!” My scream reached the farthest corners of the crowd and all turned and stared. The girl’s eyes were drawn to mine. Just for a second she recognized me and then I was a stranger again. She spit at the crowd and tore her clothes.
I tried to run to her but Paul held me back. He spoke to the demons, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!”
Syntyche shrieked then fell to her knees; her face softened and tears filled her eyes. She returned to me from the brink of hell.
“Mommy!” she cried.
I knelt beside her and we hugged. I never wanted to let her go again.
Syntyche fingered the purple sash that hung from my head. I took it off and wrapped it around my daughter’s waist. “You are worth more than all the purple in the world,” I whispered. Purple once drove us apart but it had finally brought us back together.
This was inspired by a poem I listened to on the internet as read by John Piper.
Also inspired by Acts 16.
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