The skeleton: a collection of hollow and lifeless bones with no agenda beyond a slow and sluggish decomposition.
The skeletons in our lives: the past. Maybe it was a single event or a phone call. Maybe it was a series of events or a season. Or maybe it was a lifelong battle that has led to shame and guilt, destruction and disaster, heartbreak and hurts and habits.
Maybe you feel as though you’ve failed as a spouse, a parent, a child, a professional, a friend, or a Christian.
Or maybe you regret things you’ve done or didn’t do, things you’ve said or didn’t say, things you’ve felt or dismissed or gave in to.
In this context, we often speak of skeletons as objects in closets - as if they are hidden behind a door and waiting to be discovered, not necessarily influencing our lives until we (or someone else) opens the door and exposes the bones.
But, maybe for some of us, the bones of failures and regrets are experienced as if in a backpack we choose to wear every day; they are everywhere we go, and with every step and movement, the bones are felt and heard.
When we try to stand up, the pull of the bones draws us back down.
When we try to move forward, we quickly grow weary and exhausted from the added weight on our backs.
When we try to lie down and rest, our comfort is hindered by stabbing in our backs or pressure on our chest and heart.
No movement or position or posture is comfortable or light until we remove the backpack, expose the bones, and hand them over to the only One who can destroy them: Christ.
FROM BONES TO BELIEF: GRACE AND...
From a scientific perspective, the skeleton is educational, informative, and has been crucial in developing our understanding of life. Any medical professional will tell you that the ability to see, feel, and experience a skeleton is critical for learning and growing in knowledge.
Can the same be said about our personal skeletons? Dare we proclaim that our very own real and tangible “bones” - our failures, regrets, habits, wounds, and burdens - are critical for growing in faith, inflaming our hearts for Jesus, and moving toward the future of God’s calling?
From the beginning of creation, God has used the failures, hurts, and regrets of an individual’s past to be a very real and active part of his or her redemptive story; some of the most incredible acts of faith in the Bible are the direct result of God’s grace infusing the hearts of His children.
GRACE AND THE GOSPEL FOR THE LONELY/LOST
The woman at the well: would she have shared her story to a city full of her condemners if Jesus hadn’t exposed her past of failed marriages as He declared Himself as the Messiah?
“Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?’ They came out of the town and made their way toward him” (John 4:28-30).
GRACE AND A PLAN FOR THE DOUBTERS
Peter: would Jesus have dictated him as the “rock” on which the Christian faith would be built (Matthew 16:18) had he not been confronted by Jesus for his very lack of faith and denial of His friendship three times?
“Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the first time, ‘Do you love me?’ He said, ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my sheep’” (John 21:17b).
GRACE AND A MISSION FOR THE WICKED & EVIL-HEARTED
Saul of Tarsus: would he have grown into one of the most influential disciples, author of 13 books of the New Testament, and a ruthlessly devoted missionary had he not been converted from a Christian-killer to a martyr for Christ?
“But the Lord said to Ananias, ‘Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name” (Acts 9:15-16).
GRACE FOR THOSE WHOSE PLANS CHANGE
Naomi and Ruth: if they hadn’t experienced heartbreaking loss of loved ones and, in turn, developed a divine loyalty to one another based on compassion and boldness, would Ruth have bore a son whose bloodline involved Jesus Himself?
“The women said to Naomi: ‘Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth… He was the father of Jesse, the father of David” (Ruth 4:14-17).
GRACE AND DIRECTION FOR THE ABANDONED AND PERSECUTED
Moses: would he have been compelled to free his people from the Egyptians had he not felt a personal connection to and compassion for the Hebrews of whom he was abandoned from as a child?
“One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew man, one of his own people. Looking this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand” (Exodus 2:11-13).
The reality of living in a broken, sinful, and corrupt world is that none of us are without skeletons. Every day, we pack our backpacks full of stuff of our past that keeps us from living and acting in the way God calls us: the pressure of the bones makes us feel sluggish in our faith; the sound of the bones jostling distracts us from hearing Him; the constant weight reminds us that we are not free from the heaviness.
But the truth of the Bible is this: Jesus wants you to give Him the backpack. He is waiting, with outstretched and pierced hands, to accept your invitation to let Him unzip the backpack, remove each and every bone so it is exposed by the Light, and then bury it at the Cross in healing.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Sure, this action requires work on your part. It requires initiative and boldness and courage as you confront that person, event, situation, feeling, or habit. But the redemptive accounts of the Bible - of the woman at the well, of Peter, of Paul, of Naomi and Ruth, and of Moses - are proof that God’s grace outshines every sin, every failure, and every regret. But a skeleton hidden in darkness cannot be used until it is brought into the light.
Because of the unconditional grace of God, Paul (the persecutor-and-murderer-of-Christians-turned-missionary) can boldly write: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weaknesses’. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). If God can use Paul’s past to propel him into a confident hope, how might God use yours?