An Ephesus Epiphany

Christian Tour

When I get that “spring cleaning” fever to scrub the baseboards or scour the kitchen sink I’m reminded of the way that God is sanctifying me. It seems that the more I clean the more dirt I find (somehow scrubbing just reveals all the layers of filth beneath the surface that I couldn’t see at first). In the same way, God is at work in my heart washing away all that grimy residue from the years I lived apart from Him. While it’s uncomfortable and a little embarrassing, freedom from all that muck is worth the (sometimes painful) chastening required to clean it. I couldn’t help but notice the same correlation when I entered the Terrace Houses in Ephesus on a tour last summer.

Also known as “Houses for the Rich” this massive apartment-like complex in modern day Turkey was built in the first century B.C. and was used until the seventh century A.D. Complete with running hot and cold water, and a terra-cotta heating system that channeled hot air through the walls and floor (is there an online DIY tutorial for that?), it wasn’t just functionality of the homes that made them spectacular. They were also lavished with the finest details of tile mosaics and elegant “wallpaper” paintings from their time. I’m sure the residents felt the need to keep up with the Joneses (or…the Mustafas in this case?). 

If you’re thinking that you’ve already seen a lifetime’s worth of stone mosaics on that trip your 8th Grade class took to the Smithsonian in D.C. (or, if you’re like me and you didn’t raise enough money selling beef jerky sticks – you saw all of the postcards of mosaics you’ll ever need to see), you might want to reconsider. This, my friends, is the real deal! There’s evidence of names of people that lived there including ancient graffiti on one bathroom wall. Can you imagine: “Omer was here.”?!

Over the past thousands of years – through wars, earthquakes and good ole fashioned time and decay – the houses crumbled. Thankfully in the middle of the 20th century, some caring archeologists began the vigilant duty of restoration. Now it’s possible for tourists to go inside and peek at first century lifestyles of the rich and famous (think: “Raki wishes and anchovy dreams” in a Robin Leach voice). Archeologists sit here and there, tediously dusting the ancient wall paintings and meticulously re-tiling the mosaics so that, in the end, the homes would look like they had been intended. While I would find this work more like torture and cruel punishment (attention to detail isn’t exactly my thing) I sensed the passion of the various men and women working on the renovations. Far from cruel monotony, this was their passion. I can only imagine a furrow-browed archeologist searching for a missing tile and, with great joy, inserting it into the correct little space – his serious brow changing to one of celebration and excitement for the next little success. Turning tiny pieces of rubble back into masterpieces is the true job.

Like the Terrace Houses in Ephesus my life has experienced its own set of wars, earthquakes and decay. The battle between the spirit and flesh has often left me broken. But like those faithful archeologists, God is carefully and lovingly building me up into what I was intended to be – His image bearer. With Jesus as the subject in view, He is putting all the little pieces together: one tile, one prayer, one moment at a time. Someday that work will come to completion as He finishes another masterpiece – assembled from small but beautiful little pieces of the Master Himself (hopefully, in the meantime, I won’t be behind one of those nasty plexiglass covers on display for all to see!).


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