Signs of Life
But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. 1 Timothy 1:16
My wife and I were recently hiking in the mountains when we came to a fork in our path. We’d never been there before, so we had no idea which way to go. We knew where we wanted to get to, but we didn’t know how to get there. Fortunately, there were others who’d been before us, leaving behind signs to point the way. Had the signs been wrong, we’d have been lost. The signs, of course, weren’t wrong. We trusted them and we got where we intended to go.
In today’s passage, though he didn’t use the metaphor of a sign, Paul did say that his life was meant to be a message for others. He said that Christ saved him, the worst of sinners, to display God’s love and patience. Paul’s life was a sign that God can save anyone – even the worst of the worst – who believes in him.
Our lives too, whether we like it or not, are signs to others, pointing them one direction or another. Those around us influence us and we, in turn, influence them. We may encourage our friends to join our gym and they may encourage us to eat better. Or, alternately, we can inspire less noble behaviors in each other. We can indulge in our self-destructive nature, thereby influencing those around us to do likewise.
In my addiction, I had a lax attitude about prescribing opioids. I did my medical training in a time of liberal prescribing practices and though I understood the personal effects of addiction, I wanted opioids to be harmless, so I behaved in a way that I now think encouraged addiction in others. That’s a painful thought – that I once inspired addiction.
Now, in recovery, I want the opposite to be true. I pray every day that my life would be a beacon that points others, not to addiction, but to God. I want my life to stand for faith and recovery. When others see me, I pray that they’re inspired to seek a new life in the heavenly father. That’s a sobering thought – that I’m responsible for pointing others to faith.
The truth is though, that our lives are signs that point to something, whether we like it or not. Others watch us and are influenced by us. The direction in which we point others, is up to us. Do we point at ourselves, at the old life, or do our lives point others to God, inspiring faith and recovery?