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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Extra (08/29/13)

TITLE: The First One Thousand Paces
By Melanie Kerr


It took the first hundred paces to actually begin a conversation. I don’t walk very fast but he does, being a Roman soldier. Trying to catch my breath and keep up was challenge enough. Being a miller I am used to carrying heavy bags of grain so the weight of his armour wasn’t so bad. I speak a little Latin and he spoke a little Aramaic so we made a conversation of sorts.

Over the next hundred paces we exchanged small talk. His name was Lucius. He’s been in the army since he was a young lad. I told him my name was Justus. I was never conscripted into the Roman army on account of having flat feet. He laughed and said that with all the marching her had done over the years he was probably flat footed too. He doesn’t much like Israel he said. It’s too far away from Rome. The people here are too volatile. I told him that it is just a Middle Eastern thing. We explode at the least provocation, but we cool down very quickly too. We don’t talk quietly.

For the next hundred paces we talked about family. He has a wife he hasn’t seen for nearly two years. She was a sickly woman. He spoke of the healers that buzzed around sick people like mosquitos. So much money wasted on useless cures. I hopped excitedly. This really was a God appointment. How could I tell him about Jesus? I talked about my neighbour, Abigail. She had a wasting disease. Abigail had been to see a healer called Jesus. She had touched the hem of Jesus’ garment and had been cured.

“Funny you should say that...” for the next hundred paces Lucius told me about a centurion who had a servant who had been sick. Some of the more hardened of the legion had been running a bet to see how long the servant would take to die. The next thing he had heard was the centurion went to find this man Jesus. They talked about authority and faith. Jesus could just say the words, not needing to touch the servant and he was healed.

The next hundred paces were quiet ones. I had a stone in my sandal. I wanted to stop and sort myself out.

“So…have you met this Jesus then?” The wise thing might have been to change the conversation. Knowing Jesus can get you into trouble. I trusted Jesus’ promise that His Spirit would give me the right words to say. I spoke at length, two or three hundred paces, about the Jesus I knew. I had been there in the synagogue when he cast out a demon. Imagine that, a demon turning up at the synagogue every week and no one being suspicious! I had also been around when Jesus had turned five loaves and two fish into a meal for five thousand people. I shared some of the stories Jesus told. The one about the lost son was a favourite of mine.

“It’s just a story, Justus.” I liked the way he called me by my name. “No one behaves like that.” I agreed. But the story is not really about a person, it’s about God. I spent two hundred paces telling him about a loving and forgiving God. I knew my own sins. God knew them along with a whole list I didn’t want to admit to. Despite them all, God chose to forgive me and call me His son.

Lucius stopped. Perhaps I had gone too far. I prepared myself for a hard slap about the head. The Romans were sensitive about their gods. The notion of knowing so much about individual people, and caring about them was not Roman.

“So does God just forgive Jews then?” I’d heard the preacher Paul say that God forgives everyone – Jew and Gentile alike. It was only then I noticed that Lucius was wiping tears from his eyes. As a soldier, he told me, following orders wasn’t always easy. He began to tell me some of the things he had done. I wanted to tell him not to tell me but to tell God, but sometimes we just need another human being to hear our story.

“God forgiveness is for everyone, Lucius.”

A soldier is entitled to a thousand paces, a mile, of my labour. Jesus said to go an extra mile. Lucius and I stopped counting as we walked and talked about Jesus.

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This article has been read 437 times
Member Comments
Member Date
C D Swanson 09/06/13
I really enjoyed this entry, always love reference to biblical stories.

God bless~
Wilma Schlegel09/06/13
So well written. I often find myself counting paces and so I identified, then was impressed your knowledge of the culture/reason for counting paces. I was also impressed with the shown desire to share Jesus.
Allison Egley 09/08/13
Oh, this is great. I love it. Great use of the topic, too.
Virgil Youngblood 09/08/13
From the title to the conclusion,this well written story delivers a message not missed by thoughtful readers. Well done.
Gerald Shuler 09/08/13
The most telling line in this wonderful story is the last one where they stopped counting paces! I enjoyed this very much.
Bea Edwards 09/09/13
Fabulous and interesting story about a relatively obscure instruction from Jesus. Well done!
lynn gipson 09/09/13
Wonderful story. Just a tiny red ink. "with all the marching HE had done" instead of her.

Otherwise just a great read and write. Blessings.
Brenda Rice 09/09/13
Very well written. Thanks for sharing an interesting story.
Genia Gilbert09/09/13
Excellent! You did a wonderful job on this topic. Great writing.
Judith Gayle Smith09/11/13
Excellent. Kept my attention throughout. Love the way you phrase. The title is so fitting . . .
C D Swanson 09/12/13
Congrats! God Bless~
Judith Gayle Smith09/12/13
This is beautiful! Thank you, and congratulations on your well-deserved win!
Linda Goergen09/12/13
Congratulations! Such a beautifully, vividly, powerfully told story, so deserving of the win! Loved the perspective--felt like I was right there! Great job!
Nancy Bucca09/12/13
What a wonderful story. I enjoyed every bit. And what a great way to share the gospel. Congratulations on your win.
Leola Ogle 09/12/13
Love this, Melanie! Congratulations on your placement. God bless!