Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (NIV) Romans 6:23 “for the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
He had never run this hard in his life. Just a few moments before, he awoke to shouting, screams, smoke, flames, and foreign men swinging clubs and axes. And now one was chasing him away from the village, into the surrounding night forest. Why were they here? What did they want? It couldn’t be good—he’d heard stories of boys his age stolen in raids, never to be seen again. He was fast, so as long as he could keep moving forward… but in the darkness his foot caught a rock and down he went. In an instant the man was on him, dragging him back to their ship. As they rowed away from the British coast, he watched his village burn to the ground.
They rowed and rowed, and as they journeyed, he pondered his fate. What would his future hold? Days later they arrived on the Irish coast, where he was sold into slavery. After a month-long journey across the island, he began his assigned work of shepherding. The fact that he was educated, could even read and write Latin, should have landed him easier work. Yet here he sat with the sheep. Again he pondered his fate. He thought back to life at home, how he had rejected the faith of his father, a deacon, and his grandfather, an official in the Christian church. His abduction and slavery only confirmed in his mind that there was no god, or that this god must be evil to allow such a thing to happen.
Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Over time, the isolation, the space to think, softened his heart to the things of God. One day he came to the point of trusting God again, and his faith grew, “The love and fear of God burned more and more within me, and my faith and spirit grew strong. In a single day I would pray as often as a hundred times, and almost as often during the night.”
He began to long to return home. But how? It was hundreds of miles of walking through a hostile land. Even if he could find his way, how would he cross the water? And would anyone even still be alive? One night he had a dream. In it he heard a simple message: “You have fasted well—soon you will be going home.” He didn’t think much of it, but the next night he had another dream where he heard a voice say, “Behold, your ship is ready.” He left that night. After days of walking, he reached the coast where he found a job on a ship headed toward his home.
And so, after six years in slavery, he finally made it back home and found his family had survived the attack. As you can imagine, there was much rejoicing and celebrating, yet young Patrick was not at ease. Slavery had been a miserable experience, but God used it to draw Patrick to himself. Because of God’s work in his heart, his compassion for the lost natives of Ireland had grown. God had been so gracious to him, how would the people of Ireland learn of such joy and hope without someone to tell them?
Once again he dreamed. This time his former captor appeared with a package of letters. Patrick read the one on top. It said, “Holy boy, come walk among us!” When he woke, he decided he would go back to Ireland.
What do you think of Patrick’s decision to return to the people who had enslaved him? Read part two to learn more about Patrick’s return to Ireland.
God, thank you for loving us, for dying for us, for giving us the gift of eternal life. Help us to listen to you speaking to us and foster a burden to share the message of your love with those who do not know you.