Happiness resides not in possessions, and not in gold,
happiness dwells in the soul. Democritus 460 BC ~ 370 BC
“Titus, don’t tease your sister.” He tossed his son aball. “Let Marca catch the pila with you.” The children ran off laughing. Gaius bent down and lay next to his wife, Lucia, on the blanket she had stretched out. He watched her while she prepared the noon meal. Lucia was much younger than he was, and the sun, casting an angelic glow around her head, accentuated her beauty. He touched her leg and she glanced at him with a smile as she continued her task.
Gaius never thought he could be this happy. After his trial he had left the service of the army and walked away from his career and accomplishments. No one blamed him. In fact, they encouraged him to find a new path for his life. But finding a new path wasn’t easy. What was a soldier, a man trained to kill, to do with his life? He always thought that he would die a glorious death in battle. That life seemed a very long time ago, and he didn’t like thinking about it too often. Most memories were painful, and the ones that weren’t always led back to Aalina. Though he was happy for her, these filled his heart with remorse, of things not done, things not said.
Yet, all those feelings and thoughts melted away in Lucia’s presence. She had breathed life back into his lonely existence. Long black hair framed her olive-skinned face and penetrating brown eyes. Though she had a Roman name, chosen when she became a citizen, Lucia was from Lebanon, and her father was a shepherd in the region around Jezzine.
“Lucia, tell me again how we met. I love it when you tell the story.” The children had made their way back to the blanket and crawled into their father’s lap. They pleaded with their mother to tell the story again.
“Well,” she started, smiling at her husband, “I was tending your grandfather’s sheep when I first saw your papa. He wasn’t as handsome as you see him now. My sister and brother ran to me, pointing at a monster that was walking out of the hills. I told them they were just imagining things, but when their insistent pointing revealed the silhouette of a gruesome creature, we all ran back to our papa’s tent and hid.” She reached out and tickled Titus and both the children squealed. “My papa laughed at us and approached the monster without any fear. When he brought him back to the tent he called me out and instructed me to get him some water.”
“You mother hid behind your grandpa the whole time. She was afraid of me,” Gaius teased.
“Yes, I was. His hair was filthy, and his clothes dirty from walking all they way from Jerusalem. The worse part was that he smelled!” Lucia pinched her nose with her fingers and the children giggled. “My sister and I prepared the evening meal and my papa invited him to eat and stay the night. We were up early the next morning tending the flock, and when we came back for the morning meal he was gone.”
“It was because your mamma’s cooking wasn’t very good yet,” he laughed.
“I didn’t see your papa again for another six months,” she said, ignoring his comment. “He had gone to Sidon looking for work. My papa had taken us to the market when I noticed a familiar man working on a nearby building. I walked closer to him trying to remember where I had seen him before, when he turned and saw me staring.”
“Your mama blushed because I caught her looking at me. I remember how pretty she was, and I think that is when I fell in love.” Gaius bent over and lightly kissed her on the cheek.
“I not only turned red in the face, but I was speechless when he came over and asked if he could help me. Looking over my shoulder he noticed my papa and realized who I was, and asked if he could carry my basket. The men who worked with your papa laughed at him and made some mean remarks about me. Your papa turned around and gave them a stern rebuke and they quickly fell silent.” Lucia furrowed her brow and tried to make a menacing sound, and everyone laughed. “I know it was then that I fell in love. If a man I hardly knew would stand up for my honor, he was a man I could spend the rest of my life with.” Lucia reached out and took Gaius’ hand. “Your papa is the kindest and gentlest man I have ever known.”
“Your mamma,” Gaius continued, “finally found her tongue as we walked through the market, and I was glad, because I am not a talker. She told me more about her life then I could remember. I just like hearing her voice.”
Lucia pulled Marca into her lap and whispered in her ear, “Your papa promised to visit me. It was two day’s walk each way from Sidon to Jezzine, but at the end of every week I would see him striding across the hills. He would stay for a day and then leave. He did this for two months, and at the end of the second month he asked my papa if he could marry me. It didn’t take long for preparations and within two weeks we were married.”
“Your mamma was very brave. She left her family and came to live with me in Sidon. She had to learn about the things I believed, and meet the people who were important to me.” Gaius was proud of his wife and how she embraced everything about his life.
“Your papa’s friends are the same ones we see each week when we gather to worship. They were kind and accepting. I wasn’t sure about them at first, but their genuine faith and love made it easy for me to have faith in Jesus. And then the next year we had a new person in our family.” Titus pointed at himself with a big grin on his face.
“What about me mamma?” Marca looked at her mom with a pouty face.
“You came two years later, and both of you are the light of our lives.” She hid the pain of the child they lost in between. Gaius and Lucia wept over the loss, but knew that they would see him again in the resurrection. One day they would tell their children, but for now it was a joy and sorrow only between them.
“Faith and family,” Gaius interjected, “are the most important things in the world. The strength of the family is the strength of the church, and the church is the living representative of Jesus on earth. As the family goes, so goes our witness.” As Gaius reinforced the importance of family and faith he was transferred back in time to a similar message given to him by his father: “So goes the family, so goes Rome.” He never returned to his family in Rome, and only once received a message from his brother informing of his mother’s death, but he had never forgotten them in his prayers.
Rome was the master of the world, but Gaius had come to know that its role was insignificant in the grand scheme of God’s plan. The importance of family never changed though. As he looked into the laughing eyes of his wife and children he knew he was content; he was finally home.