Everyone has a race.
Everyone has a reason.
The path carries us forward, even in moments when we can’t see it, towards an ending we may not know or understand. We have gaps, blank spaces in our souls that are longing to be filled. There are dreams to take form, symphonies to compose, novels to write, songs to sing, and lives to save.
We are 7 billion creations shifting and moving on this planet with 7 billion individual purposes.
We all have our chains.
What if they are comfortable? What if we’re not Jacob Marley from The Christmas Carol, rattling around our old rich friends and keeping them up at night? What if it is much simpler?
One more drink. One more pill. No, even simpler.
One more conversation. One more argument. One more phrase you wish you hadn’t said but that person at work was so annoying and you just had to let out your frustrations on someone who happened to be your child greeting you when you walked through the door.
One more unspoken word, unmet glance, open hand not held and open heart not addressed.
Oh the chains can be so comfortable. Sometimes we even wear them with pride.
We jump on social media to fight with anyone who disagrees with our opinions as followers of Jesus. We complain about the degradation of the world and forget we are part of the equation. We keep the hurt at arm’s length, just outside the church walls, and conduct our business with mindful ignorance.
Then we sing about freedom. We pray about it, for the chance to live the lives we want to live in our time, on our plans, within our budget and the realm of space we believe we fit. We want freedom with boundaries, wrapped in our box of choice and designed the way we want.
We’ve missed the concept of breaking chains:
Living lives of purpose and meaning. Giving back to our communities. Opening doors with love available to anyone looking for it. Giving ourselves permission to break the chains because we are new creations, no longer slaves of the past.
A Chain Breaker
A man by the name of Paul is responsible for the majority of the New Testament in the Bible. He had everything, at the time, worth having. He was a Roman citizen, highly educated, and zealous in his purpose to hunt down and kill those who followed this messiah from Jerusalem. One day, on his journey, he was struck down and blinded by the very object of his anger, Jesus, the one causing all this trouble.
Think about this for a moment. Paul was good at his job. He’d put many people in jail and killed many others, broken up families, advanced in standing and probably felt like he was on the right track. He was skilled, intelligent, eloquent, and able. His presence struck fear in any town he passed through.
Now he found himself face down, in the dirt, with the world turned to black.
Have you been there?
It takes suffering to break chains. It takes refinement by fire and a touch of the divine. It takes looking into the mirror of the soul, as Paul wrote:
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.
When is the last time you heard a pastor, church leader, politician, president, or anyone of influence say something like this? This is a man of broken chains, one calling himself the worst of sinners.
Make a list of your enemies, the ones out there doing wrong in the eyes of God, the ones we see on the news and our Facebook feeds.
See that list? Paul was lower, darker, and deeper into sin. ISIS? Lower. Bin Laden? Lower. Paul is the bottom line and he was shown mercy.
For it is mercy that breaks chains. It is the reprieve, the chance to live apart from your past, to show the fullness of your divine purpose, to mend hearts, hold hands, and rebuild relationships.
Start with mercy and grace, and your chains will fall. Ask for forgiveness as you forgive others. Meet the one Paul met on the Damascus road.
Paul’s pen changed the world so many centuries ago. Imagine what, with all the resources out there, you can do today.