In This Issue  
Home    |    About Us    |    Meet Debbie    |    Meet Friends    |    Prayer    |    Contact Us
Share Print this page Print Email to a friendEmail

< Back to Food 4 Thought

The Well-Worn Altar

     As an elder in our church, there are times during the service when my husband may be called to the front of the sanctuary for prayer, support, intercession and other special needs. Most of the time, we, the elder’s wives, go up with them. One Sunday, as we were gathered at the altar, my eyes fell on the thin wooden trim that edges the low, crescent-shaped stairs that lead up to the stage/altar area. The trim serves a few purposes: it is practical and decorative; it hides the carpet-tacks; keeps things neat; and looks clean and manicured. I noticed how several spots on the trim had been worn down, scuffed, scraped, and dented...and painted over in repair. All of a sudden, I was struck by the symbolism and depth of those repaired and painted-over spots. The altar had been wounded.

Can I have your autograph?

     I thought, How many people have been up here? Their prayers and cries have been time-stamped right into that wood. How many sons and daughters of God have stood toe-to-toe with Him in obedient worship or desperate indecision? I wondered, WHY do we cover these spots? I mean, I know that aesthetically, it looks better. Maybe. They say, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” However, wear and tear on anything usually tells of its frequent use and reliability. A well-worn altar speaks volumes. It stands in testament to its validity and deeply held beliefs. A signature of Faith itself. An autograph of each and every soul who has made the trek to that altar. How many babies have been dedicated to God up there? How many anguished tears and fervent pleads for mercy have been cried into that altar? How many prayers of gratefulness have been spoken for one more soldier returning safely from overseas? How much thanksgiving has been sent heavenward for His healing, deliverance, and peace?  How much joy has spilled over for new marriages and new babies? The altar is embedded with humble thanks for restoration and the elation that accompanies new, reclaimed lives in Jesus Christ.

He was not a plastic Jesus

     I can't help but make a connection between the physical altar and the body of Jesus Christ. How many wounds, slashes, punctures and much worse, did Jesus endure and physically bear into His body? For us! His wounds were horrific, and they were not dressed or cleaned or attended to. He was not medicated or soothed in any manner whatsoever. His brutal murder is not often depicted accurately. Most of us are familiar with the little plastic Jesus on the crucifix: teeny, little thin lines of blood on His hands, feet and head. Ow. He doesn't even appear as if He is in excruciating agony. He is usually portrayed as looking just a slight bit uncomfortable, and quite possibly, bored out of His mind.  Nothing could be further from the truth. We like to think of it that way don't we? It makes us think it was a quick and clean end. No, my friend, NO. He was tortured, and suffered innumerable mortal wounds. It was not pretty. It was horrendous. I think we need to remember that. Pain was required to fill God's promise. Each gash, each gaping wound representing man's willful rebellion against God.

     When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. 1 Peter 2:23-24 (NIV)

     Those massive wounds were the filth of sin and separation from God wrapped in perfection...presented in the embodiment of Jesus--the ultimate and perfect sacrifice.

The Well-Worn Bible?

     While I was writing this, my husband made a very interesting observation. He said, “Isn't it funny that the things that we treasure most are the things that look like they need to be thrown away? You know what they say about well-worn Bibles...” For example: If someone gives you their personal Bible, and it has never been cracked open, it's...nice. Right? I am not suggesting that it won't mean anything to you, because it does and it will. But sometimes, receiving something that doesn't bear the imprint of someone special doesn't have the same impact as receiving one that is falling apart. The Bible that someone has jotted down little notes in, personalized it, has a million bookmarks and highlighted passages in it, filled with pressed flowers, four-leaf clovers and little love-notes, and is held together solely by the power of God Almighty...you cherish that one. It becomes priceless. Interesting.

     It makes me think of our youngest daughter, who has a huge heart for tattered and diseased-looking stuffed animals. Their wounds endear them to her. She cannot help but love them and want to take them home with her. I am not kidding, we have actually bought little bears without legs or half of their bodies in tact! We have bought teddy bear torsos, OK?! Gross! But, we were so touched that so much pure love could come from one child, we brought them home. After they were thoroughly decontaminated in boiling bleach, she would love on them like crazy! As if they were whole and perfect; she treasured them nonetheless.

     Even in everyday life, we hold dear the wounded and scarred things: blankets that pull apart with every twelfth washing, and at the end of their lives, cling on to their last folding; favorite sweatshirts that have been outlived by their care tags; prized blue jeans that you can read through. My husband and I have witnessed our children respond with deep sorrow and sadness when a favorite toy, blanket, or doll is on the edge of utter disintegration. Stuffed animals that have experienced that caliber of love and appreciation in our home are the nasty, ratty-looking ones that get picked up with grill tongs as if they are biohazards and infested with...something. But treasured nonetheless.

     I will never again see wounds and scars the same way. I will never interpret a worn and scarred altar as evidence of laziness and disinterest. I will see it with different eyes. I will see it with eyes that have new vision, new depth, and new acuity. I will see them through the eyes of a rescued and profoundly changed soul. I will see them as proof that we serve a real and current Living God; and, that we, above all, have this hope. Nothing is unredeemable. Nothing is so tattered and torn or mauled by a rabid starving demented grizzly bear, that it cannot be restored by the Father.

      “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.” 2 Corinthians 4:7-12 (NIV)

But treasured nonetheless...

     My friends, we are each wounded and scarred. We are beat-up and falling apart at the seams. We should be handled with grill tongs, ok? Instead of looking at our scars and wounds as something to despise or mourn, allow them to serve as evidence that He has carried you through. Scars are actually proof that healing has occurred. Look at them as proof that God Almighty has done what He said He would do. He picked us up, beaten and disheveled, ratty-looking, and pathetically wounded--but treasured, nonetheless!

Copyright © 2008-2015 Jodi Crago

Reader Comments...
2009-07-27 10:33:43
"Praise the Lord! What precious insight, a well worn altar would surely please God. I love the fact that God has met many face to face, toe to toe, and the scars show a healing has taken place...
Love, "

        - Gloria
2009-07-01 21:00:48
"Some of our most cherished people and things are works in progress and the intense marks are their best features.. may you continue to observe and do in your most unique style...much love,...."
        - Carole

Post Your Comment...

First Name
Last Name
e-mail   (We will not re-distribute your e-mail.)

Share on Facebook Share
Print this page Print This Page
Email to a friendEmail Article to a Friend

< Back to Food 4 Thought

More Great Articles

My Friend Debbie - Turn Old Man Winter Into A Breath of Fresh AirHome & Hospitality

Turn Old Man Winter Into A Breath of Fresh Air
My Friend Debbie - Chicken and Rice CasseroleKitchen Keeper Recipes

Chicken and Rice Casserole
My Friend Debbie - Corolla, NC with GirlfriendsTravel

Corolla, NC with Girlfriends