Scars and Chains
January 7, 2020
“Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ” (Philippians 1:12-13, NIV 1984).
My friend, Carl, stopped me after Bible study to share a recent encounter. Carl had recently endured a multivessel CABG with significant complications that almost took his life. “I was in a rehab group—you know, the psychology part where they discuss stress. The man next to me wore a hat that labeled him a Christian. He described his anxiety to the group, ‘My greatest cause of stress is this scar on my chest.’ After the meeting I showed him the picture of my own scars.” Carl then pulled out his phone and clicked open the same picture for me. His chest demonstrated three small chest tube scars just below his xyphoid; they resembled three small crosses. Above them was a long vertical scar, running the length of the sternum. The pattern of his scars portrayed three crosses with a pathway to heaven. Carl told the stressed-out man, “This is what I see with my scars, and then I let go of my stress.”
What do we do with our scars? What do we do when our scars become chains?
What do we do when life’s difficulties will not let go and not let us become the person we want to be—not let us become what God has called us to be? Many of us have been wounded by others, or by our own actions, or by life’s blind actions, leaving us with scars we revisit day after day. Certainly, at the beginning of our struggles we cannot avoid some component of anxiety and stress. The wounds are real; the pain hurts. The problem for me, as God’s ambassador, comes when I let those scars become chains that keep me from living out God’s mission for my life.
In the first chapter of Philippians, Paul is writing from house arrest in Rome—no way to travel on another missionary journey, no way to start new churches. His chains prevented him from pursuing all that his passion for Christ was calling him to do. Almost.
But Paul looked at his chains and saw opportunity rather than defeat. He looked at his new, intolerable circumstances and saw Christ. He remembered Christ’s scars and let them transform his chains into pathways for service.
What scars have I that chain me to my fear or anger, when, instead, God could use them to point others to the only solution for all fear and anger?
What scars have I that could be fashioned into pathways of service rather than fester as gullies of despair?
Let my scars be used to point to your love.