Empathy and Victory – SCARS

No suffering human being is helped by someone telling him that he has the same problems.

Open wounds stink and do not heal. 

Both of the above are from Henri Nouwen. They summarize the current sermon series we are in at PAC – although we haven’t used those exact words since I only found them today.

As we work our way through the bible imagining different wounded characters meeting with Jesus and being healed by his scars we’ve been saying things like:

Festering wounds don’t have the potential to heal others. Scars do. 

Sharing wounds allows for empathy. Sharing scars allows for empathy and victory.

We started with Adam’s shame (and my own). Then moved on to Cain’s jealousy. And now in week #3, we are getting ready to look at Jacob…..I’m having an interesting time with Jacob.

On the one hand, he is easy because we have way more material about Jacob to work with and a variety of potential wounds emerging. Deceit, control, fraud, worry, compromise, bargaining, and the lack of trust in God which underlies it all. And of course, there are various stages of redemption and grace to comment on as it all unfolds.

On the other hand, it’s a tough story to do justice to because the most decisive healing moment for him is during a divine encounter where he is dealt another wound.

Doesn’t tie up as neatly as I



Beauty will save the world.

The things in our lives which are “off” are because we are not enough like God yet. The human project from a Christian perspective is to renew, restore, and even propel human beings into the mold they fit best – the image of God. To become like God you need to, in some sense, feed on him. That is, to take into ourselves the things God is and have these nourish us in ways which transform us further into His likeness.

You are what you eat.

Over the years, more philosophically minded Christians have identified three key “courses” for nourishment – truth, goodness, and beauty – which balance your diet.

For the most part, in my church, we offer a pretty good diet during a Sunday service. Most sermons you’d hear would focus on understanding truth – renewing our minds. You’d also consistently be challenged to be good. To change behaviour, your speech and actions, in such a way  your reflexes eventually change. Your heart becoming an instrument tuned to the key of right living and possessing the ability to receive the joy which comes from that.

So, while the sheep are fed pretty healthy doses of truth and goodness at Prairie Alliance Church it’s a little harder to find beauty. Not that anyone is looking. Most evangelicals are suspicious of beauty. When beauty is served it is seen as frivolous, temporal, distracting, or excessive.  It often doesn’t go down easy and sometimes it is just left untouched on the plate.

But we need to get over this suspicion (and here I am not just talking PAC but the broader evangelical church) because it causes us to refuse one of the three key “ingredients” which help us become like God and so fully human. It’s not math, and it isn’t a beautiful way of saying it, but for the sake of clarity let’s imagine if beauty was part of our diet we could be ⅓ more effective at becoming like Christ. That’s a high percentage to leave behind – nourishment wise.

Our reasons for being suspicious of beauty are based on misunderstandings. These are easily cleared up once brought into the light. Then, we can feast at every dish on the table in front of us. Having not only our minds (truth) and heart (goodness) nourished but allowing our souls to be fed by beauty.

This Sunday at PAC, I’ll be picking up what I started in the first part of this post as I begin where Micah Smith left off during Part 1 of the sermon series “Skin Deep”. If you are in the Portage or Neepawa area it would be great to have you here in person. If you are far away, feel free to watch Part 1 at either or on YouTube. Part 2 will be in those same places by Sunday evening.

*(The title of this post is a quote from Dostoevsky)