In Two Places at Once2
After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison...About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them (Acts 16:23a and 25a).
In the movie A Walk to Remember, Landon takes Jamie to the Virginia/North Carolina state-line and asks her to stand with one foot in one state and one in the other. After a beat she realizes Landon has just enabled her to fulfill her bucket list dream of being in two places at once.
Although Paul and Silas weren't working their way through a bucket list, they, too, experienced being in two places at once.
In our Acts 16 passage, the two have been thrown into the inner cell of the prison at Philippi, their feet firmly shackled. And yet, around midnight, there they were—“praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.”
Although they were in prison—an apt metaphor, at times, for being in the kingdom of the world—their spirits were obviously not confined there. Their spirits were free—an apt metaphor for being in the kingdom of God. They were in two places at once.
Psalm 59:16—“But I will sing of Your strength, in the morning I will sing of Your love; for You are my fortress, my shelter in times of trouble”—could have been one of their hymns.
You and I are also in two places at once, although we aren't always aware of that fact. The very word “reality” tries to confine us in believing this tangible world is all that's real.
And yet, we know it isn't so.
Yes, we currently live in a prison created by an infinitesimal virus that crept up on us and succeeded in confining us. Yet we simultaneously live in an expansive shelter with our Lord. In times of trouble it is dwelling in that shelter that equips us to flourish—flourish even when we find ourselves in a prison not of our own making.
This is what Paul and Silas were doing—flourishing. With one foot in a spiritual reality that was dynamic and the other in a physical reality that was bleak, they brought flourishing into a place that had certainly never seen flourishing before. And by doing so, they had a profound impact on those around them.
Singing—as Paul and Silas did –is one of many ways that help us shelter in God.
Another is Centering Prayer. Sitting quietly we turn our attention to God. As random thoughts intrude, we let them go and return to God. This is an accessible-to-all way to become aware of being in two places at once.