Whose Chains do You Wear?

But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.

Romans 6:22, ESV

I once wore a small heart pendant on a chain. It was a going-away present with a promise, and I wore it all the time I was abroad, fiddling with it during lectures and holding it when I grew nervous. It became a habit to fasten it each morning as I strapped on my watch and slipped on my Torrey Honors ring, which bears the words, bonum, verum, pulchrum—Goodness, Truth, and Beauty.

I rarely wear jewelry that does not serve an overt purpose (such as my watch) or hold a particular meaning (such as my ring). My attachment to this necklace was more about my affection for its giver. When the time came to put it back in its box for good, I was forced to wonder whether it had been a rightful attachment after all. Not that my relationship with its giver had not been worthwhile, but I did consider whether the time I spent absently fiddling with the chain or clutching the pendant could have been better spent. My neck felt bare without this familiar ornament and I often found myself reaching for it only to find an emptiness which, to me, felt symbolic.

Struggling with my abrupt return to the U.S., as well as the loss of more than a heart pendant, I ordered a new necklace: a Celtic cross. Not only does it remind me of my heritage and a place I hold dear, it serves as a consistent reminder of where my heart (and mind, soul, and strength) truly belongs. My habit of reaching for the heart pendant was reoriented toward the cross; whereas the first necklace represented a relationship from which I learned and grew, this new one reminds me of the redemption that surpasses and sustains all other relationships.

It seems such a small, sad thing—replacing a necklace. However, it felt like a turning point in this difficult year, a return to and renewal of the love that will not let me go. It made me consider again the reason I generally only wear a necklace, watch, and ring: each bears a specific significance, making a subtle statement about my person and purpose. The watch reminds me to steward my time well, the ring holds me to my commitments as a Christian writer and artist, and the necklace reminds me to Whom I belong. There, just above my heart, now shines a cross, proclaiming to all that I am loved and saved. Each time I reach for this pendant, I am convicted and encouraged, for it reminds me of the One who broke my chains and Whose chains I now wear with gladness.

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

Luke 9:23, ESV

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