The bestiarius’ scornful scowl takes-in every inch of my petite five-foot frame. If I hoped for compassion there is none in those cold eyes. The roaring crowd only further shakes my resolve. For support, I lean hard upon the cold stone wall.
“Lord, my Lord! I know not how. Grace me with peace and strength for your glory. Help …”
“Half-time, my dear. Your turn to entertain. Will you walk alone, or would you prefer to be carried?” The bestiarius swings wide the heavy plank door, spilling sunlight into the dark chambers with an exaggerated bowing motion to the two husky men behind me.
“Only God will carry me.” My voice cracks barely audible. I thrust off the wall forcing unwilling legs forward. “Ironic … how beautiful the day.”
A playful breeze causes my hair and skirt to dance as if mocking my slow heavy legs. Thousands sit in the audience, their eyes fixed on me.
“Let me present our half-time spectacle: A Christian slave girl who will not worship our Gods.” The orator booms hesitating for the crowds booing.
“Audacious, certainly, but this one also attempted to brain-wash a young child of a Senator with such folly.” Louder boos.
I scan the podium platform where the senators are seated directly above the marble plated wall. “Was Lexi here? Yes! Oh Lord, what will happen to little Lexi? She is only ten. She must be terrified – how will she not deny thee? Dear God, please finish your work in Lexi.”
“… Her sentence for your pleasure is … damnatio ad bestias.” The crowd erupts.
I am swallowed in my nothingness to them.
“Because iniquity will abound the love of many will wax cold. Will you still love?”
“Lord how? How do I love these who seek pleasure through my pain and death? … You only know – you did. Grace me, Lord.”
Metal clangs, the bull explodes into the arena head held high searching for his prey. He stops to paw the dust. His eyes settle on me, with a bellow, he charges. The floor rumbles under the impact as he barrels down on me. My sodden legs won’t budge. “Father!”
I jump aside; only snot splatters me as he blows by. I run, “to where?” I hear his hooves bearing down on me, I turn hard.
A horn tosses me. I land sitting; instantly, the bull’s face smashes into mine, bones crack. I roll into a disoriented ball. I am blasted with hot breath, pushed and pummeled. Searing pain shatters the blessed daze as a horn penetrates my back and lifts me in the air. Blood gushes from my front. The Crowd roars…
“I too bled for you.”
The bull shoves me into and down the wall. I am pierced again. The pain – like my blood – is flowing – fading away. I can hear my own jagged breath but little else.
The fear is gone. “You are sufficient, El Shaddia.”
There is jeering. “They are so blind. Do they not see they are the ones condemned eternally, because they do not believe in thee? Lord, open their eyes.”
“I want to proclaim and praise you – Lord.”
I struggle to lean up against the wall. The bull is off a ways, pawing up a storm.
I try to shout, “Jesus,” but only blood gurgles from my lips.
“Jesus Christ is Lord.” I look up to see Lexi tumble off the wall.
Screams fill the air. Lexi thuds the ground before me with a groan.
“Lexi, my daughter in the Lord.” I reach for her – the bull drives her to my arms.
Arising easily I set Lexi on her feet; we walk joyously into the light. Faith becomes sight; truly, the suffering cannot compare to the glory … Christ stands before his throne.
According to study conducted by Italian sociologist and author Massimo Introvigne “In 2016 alone over 90,000 Christians were murdered for their faith in Christ”. This number differs from numbers provided by Open Doors USA, which estimates that ‘only 7,000 Christians were killed for their faith in 2016”. *
Although the numbers are vastly different the point remains the same. In modern times there are a great number of Christians who are persecuted both by design and circumstance. From the economically poor in our ghettos or rural lands to African villagers killed in acts of genocide an estimated 1.53 billion Christians in the world today are at risk.**