Relationships

The Purpose of Scars

My son is very proud of his scars. He loves to share the stories of how they came to be, giving play-by-play accounts of how he got that scrape on his knee or the bump on his elbow. In vivid detail, he’ll describe exactly where he was on the playground, what he was doing, and how he tripped and fell or whatever other catastrophe transpired. If we’re lucky, we might get a re-enactment of the event, minus a repeat injury.

As much as he loves elaborating upon stories of his own calamities, he equally enjoys sharing how his friends got their ouchies. It’s not that he revels in their pain, but that he empathizes. When a friend gets hurt, he understands. He’s been there.

At times, I’ve seen him put his arms around the shoulder of a crying friend, sharing one of his many stories of just why he can relate to their pain.

Imagine a world void of such compassion. It’s terrible enough to suffer. And yet, to suffer alone?

Some churches falsely teach that we’ll never suffer. “Christ suffered in our place, on the cross,” they reason. “And by his wounds we are healed. Therefore, we’ll never be wounded.”

Yes, by his wounds we are healed. But have we forgotten that we also are called to be like Christ?

If he suffered, how are we to presume that we will live a life free of suffering? And if we are healed through his suffering, shall we not bring healing to others through our own suffering?

I’m not saying that we can bring the supernatural, all-consuming healing that only our Savior can bring. But I believe that through our scars we bleed blood-red compassion that brings others to know the healing that is found in Christ.

I’ve found that those who adhere to the false prosperity gospel tend to be most impoverished of compassion, judging and condemning those who endure any amount of suffering.

But I’ve also found that those of us who bear scars love on deeper levels than those who have not endured the fires of affliction.

We’re each granted our own share of battles that when we emerge victorious we might also battle on behalf of others. Financial lack frees us to empathize with those in poverty. Barrenness enables us to understand loss. Physical pain helps us to relate to those enduring far worse.

Given the choice, the selfish part of me would choose a more comfortable path. But I know there are greater outcomes when I endure the furnace of affliction with grace, allowing God to birth in me a deeper compassion through the fire.

 

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Captive Thoughts

As a parent, I’ve become expert at many things by sheer necessity. Some things I never expected would be part of my job description. And some things I never wanted to add to the list. Like nit-picking. And I’m not talking about an overtly excessive form of criticism.

When I found out one of my kids (the one with a lot of hair) had contracted head lice from summer camp, I knew I’d be in for at least a week of hard labor. I’d been told that the miniscule squatters don’t typically gravitate to coarse, coily-curly hair, but apparently my kid was part of the .3% non-typical demographic. At the end of the ordeal, I’d clocked a full 24-hour day plus of examining, treating, separating, combing, and re-examining, and was prepared for weeks ahead of frequent preventative measures.

There’s no being lazy about it when your kid has head lice. If one small nit survives, the threat of re-infestation prevails. Every corner of my house was vacuumed, every piece of affected clothing laundered. Even precious stuffed animals were stored away in tightly closed bags for at least a couple weeks to ward of further threats. And I now know every detail of homeopathic head care I could find.

I apologize if all this is too much information, and I’ll spare you further details. But there’s something to be learned from everything, and I always like to share what I’ve learned…the good, the bad, and the ugly. And I’d like to think writing about something so drudgerous (yes, I think I invented that word) could maybe redeem the hours spent on the tedious task for something worthwhile.

Combing through my kid’s endlessly thick hair minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day…I had a lot of time to think. And one scripture verse kept coming to mind: “take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.” Just as I had to take captive every tiny nit due to its potential to terrorize my child’s head, I have to take captive my every thought. One small thought can yield a reign of terror in my mind…and life. And it can transfer to those I’m close to.

It might sound scary to submit your thought-life to Christ, but it’s not so scary when we know that he wants us to fill our mind with GOOD things.

The Bible says, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” So taking my ignoble, unrighteous, impure, unlovely and unworthy thoughts and making them obedient to Christ is not only necessary, it’s good! And it’s survival.

Who can live with bitterness, rage, malice, and hatred reigning in their minds? Who can survive when evil rules over every thought? It’s not only a danger to our own mental health, but to everyone we know and love. Even the innocent bystander is not immune.

EVERY thought must be held captive and made obedient to that which is noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. Each day, we must stand on alert, combing through our minds for any thought that can take us off course. Our lives depend on it.

 

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Needed and Necessary

God has placed you here on this earth for a purpose, and part of that purpose is to contribute your gifts, your personality, your talents, and your life to community. You are needed and you are necessary.

 

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For a Reason

You’re here in this generation for a reason. Ask God to show you that reason, and to fill your life with his purposes. Ask him to lead you to strong, healthy, life-transforming community. And when you find it, you’ll find you have reason to live.

 

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Bearing One Another’s Burdens

Community is not just being under one roof at the same time. It’s sharing in one another’s joys and sufferings. It’s bearing one another’s burdens.

 

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Created for Community

We were created for community. And we’ll be lost until we find it.

 

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13 Reasons to Live: Longing for More

It was sunny, a pleasant day for a picnic. We were surrounded by people and laughter and food. The kids were enjoying themselves on the playground. And I wanted to cry.

Our friends had invited us to this African community get-together, where ethnic music soared joyfully from the loudspeaker, competing only with the friendly conversations at the surrounding tables. The warmth of the weather was matched only by the warmth of the relationships. There were still crowds gathered beneath the pavilion when we finally left, after the sun had disappeared behind the trees.

It’s been a few weeks since that day, and I still haven’t quite pinpointed what it was that triggered me to near tears in the midst of it all. In some ways, it was the beauty of the day stirring up a longing in me. You know, that empty ache in the soul that can’t quite be explained.

What struck me most, beyond the abundant variety of delicious entrees, the relentlessly happy music and the overwhelming number of people in attendance, was the strong sense of community, and the joy in the midst. The people were open, welcoming, loving, embracing. Everyone seemed to enjoy one another’s company.

In the midst of the busyness of modern culture, we’ve lost this appreciation of community.

I think much of the depression we face today is due to this lack. We bury ourselves in work and technology and things, all in unconscious effort to avoid what we most desperately need. In our pursuit of the world’s definition of success, we fail in what’s more important: relationships. If you find yourself longing for more, maybe part of what you’re longing for is meaningful connection with others.

We were created for community. And we’ll be lost until we find it.

Community is not just being under one roof at the same time. It’s sharing in one another’s joys and sufferings. It’s bearing one another’s burdens. From what I know of those who gathered at the picnic that day, they’ve celebrated together, but they’ve also suffered together. And that suffering builds strength in relationships. And overcoming together breeds genuine joy.

God has placed you here on this earth for a purpose, and part of that purpose is to contribute your gifts, your personality, your talents, and your life to community. You are needed and you are necessary. You’re here in this generation for a reason. Ask God to show you that reason, and to fill your life with his purposes. Ask him to lead you to strong, healthy, life-transforming community.

And when you find it, you’ll find you have reason to live.