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Scars | Church Wounds Part 5

It’s time for my church wound to scar over. 

How do I know? Well, the physical body takes 21 days to 2 years(!) to develop fully-formed scar tissue. We’ve been gone from our former church for two years. Amazing. It makes sense that with the severity of the wound, the healing time would be lengthy, but going into this project, I had no idea the variation of the time the body takes to heal.

I’m ready for new cells to fill my wound, shrinking wound margins as connective tissue forms. I’m ready for new blood vessels to form. I’m ready for new tissue to gain strength and flexibility. 

But, in that vein, did you know that scar tissue only recovers a maximum of 80% pre-injured strength? I didn’t. But now that I do, again, this makes so much sense. Here’s why. The Apostle Paul writes: But [the Lord] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12: 9-10) 

What happened at my former church hurt. My grief and sorrow over the situation drew from a deep well. Just a year ago, Nov. 6, 2018, I wrote this: “Would you pray for my numb heart? There’s a faint beat, but that beat lives under layers of very thick scar tissues from deep, deep wounds. Sometimes I feel the rhythm, but other times I don’t. I think grief is like that. Over the last week, as hard reminders came fast and furious, the numbness has started again. Numbness with bucket-loads of tears waiting to fall.”

What happened hurt others, too. It shifted expectations and lives. Depending on the “side” one was on determined what prominent emotion was felt. In many ways, it was a divorce and a very messy one. I came away wounded. The severed vessels caused numbness, much like a stage 3|4 wound. While time moved forward and scar tissue developed, I’ll never be the same. 

As I heal, I come away weakened. But really, that’s not a bad thing. Not when the weakness is made strong...not when the power of Christ can rest on me. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

John Piper writes: “This is God’s universal purpose for all Christian suffering: more contentment in God and less reliance on self and the world. I have never heard anyone say, ‘The really deep lessons of life have come through times of ease and comfort.’ But I have heard strong saints say, ‘Every significant advance I have ever made in grasping the depths of God’s love and growing deep with him has come through suffering.’ The pearl of greatest price is the glory of Christ.”

In my weakness—in my scars that will never be stronger than 80% of what was—Christ is strong. Christ is my strength. I’m decreasing. Christ is increasing. (see John 3:30)

Months ago, our family returned to our former church on a few occasions, all within weeks of each other. I was a nervous wreck. My emotions were heightened. My triggers exposed. The building wasn’t the issue. The familiar whooosh of the side door closing welcomed me. The light-filled sanctuary seemed an embrace. I was married there. Our children were dedicated there. I prayed there, earnestly, sometimes alone, sometimes with others. My triggers were outside of that, centered on the divorced relationships. On one specific return, I especially struggled with my emotions. I was so afraid. As I fought a ball of nausea and the urge to run, God caught my heart with the coloring sheet my daughter was working on. “I am making everything new” it read. It felt like God was pouring out grace as I sat in the middle of discomfort. It was a breath of fresh air, a glimmer of hope. 

Those coloring sheet words are a small portion of a beautiful passage in Isaiah 43. They’re also found in Revelation 21. 

In context, both passages tell of the Lord, of the things He has done. “Thus says the LORD, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters, who brings forth chariot and horse, army and warrior; they lie down, they cannot rise, they are extinguished, quenched like a wick: “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The wild beasts will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches, for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise.” (ISA 43:16-21) 

Both passages also spell out the fallen nature of the human condition. The pairing is startling. It’s intrusive. It’s a combination that--without Christ--we don’t want to hear: God is the One who is mighty to save, not us. That we, left to our own devices, want nothing to do with God: “bring out the people who are blind, yet have eyes, who are deaf, yet have ears!” (ISA 43:8); “Yet you did not call upon me, O Jacob; but you have been weary of me, O Israel!” (ISA 43:22); “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (REV 21:8).

But the beauty of these passages—a precious promise for believers—is trusting that I AM is making all things new. He’s busy redeeming His creation—including me. I’ve learned lessons during this period of estrangement from the former things. I’ve fought to cling to my faith. In fact, to contend for it, as in a battle. I’ve learned how beautiful lament is. I’ve learned it’s possible to plant my feet in God’s Word and stay there, even when the results aren’t what I wanted or expected.

I’ve learned the importance of discernment and I’m learning how to practice it. Not everything is edifying. Not everything is glorifying. There are those living out what Revelation 21:8 describes. As in Isaiah, there are those who have ears but don’t hear, eyes but don’t see. There are those who are weary of the Lord. Before Christ, I was right there, too. But God. He’s making all things new. He’s making ME new. My former church is not beyond the scope of His hand. And that is good news. That’s power in weakness.

More good news—in comparison to those who have ears but don’t hear, eyes but don’t see, there are also those who will conquer:  
"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son." (REV 21:1-7)

Fellow believers, we serve a mighty, magnificent God. Let’s find contentment in our weakened state—in scarred over wounds that will never again be full strength. Our scars are signs of something new. New wound filling. New tissue. New blood vessels. Shrinking wound margins. Epithelial cells rising. New weakness. Let’s remember where true strength is found. Not in us, but in the One who is strong. In the One who makes things new. Let’s take comfort, believing God’s word is true...when we are weak, HE is strong. 

MORE IN THIS SERIES:
Scars | Church Wounds Part 5

Part 5 Sources:
https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-seminary-of-suffering
http://www.shieldhealthcare.com/community/popular/2015/12/18/how-wounds-heal-the-4-main-phases-of-wound-healing/

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Writer's Note: Thank you for your patience as I labored with this series. It has been difficult at times, but it has also been a time of rejoicing, for the Lord is on His throne. He remains sovereign. HE has my heart, and for that I am eternally grateful. I pray that those who read this series will be encouraged to stand firm in God who is able, no matter the wounds and scars. I pray you will find the beauty of lament. I pray you will find the courage to plant your feet in the breathed-out Word of God and stay there, even when things don't turn out how you want or expect. Take heart. In Christ, we have a mighty heritage.

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