Week 7, Day 5: Scars
If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transfer it.
- Fr. Richard Rohr
Just below my left knee, almost invisible now, is a scar from slicing my leg open roller-skating when I was about 12. Equally faint is another scar across my nose from a teenage temper tantrum that blew up in my face. When I was 26, I split my leg open to the bone — and had to get eighteen stitches — trying to impress a girl. When I was 29, I broke my right index finger playing football and it didn’t heal properly, so it’s slightly wonky.
It is impossible to go through life without scars. Just as suffering is unavoidable, so are scars. Some of them are physical — from an accident we survived or an act of youthful impulsiveness. Some scars are emotional — how we react to the possibility of a relationship or how much we are able to trust someone of the opposite sex. Some are psychological — the unwanted remnants of a difficult childhood or an abusive relationship. Some scars are spiritual, particularly if we or our family have been hurt by other Christians. Living in a fallen world, there’s no way to not get hurt in some way or other. Some of the wounds that we suffer hurt like crazy; and sometimes, it can feel as though these wounds will never heal.
But human beings are paradoxes: both fragile and resilient, made of stuff both frail and indomitable. We do heal, though sometimes it can take a long, long time. And even though we may heal, we often still bear the scars from these wounds — from the experiences, relationships, events, that cause us hurt and pain.
Scars can serve as a reminder to us of the suffering we have endured; but they can also serve as reminders of the God whose faithfulness has brought us through the pain. They can remind us that we live in a fallen, broken, hurting world with fallen, broken, hurting people; and they can also be indicators of the healing that has already taken place. Scars may slow us down and inhibit our ability to do things we used to; and they can be blessings as we learn to focus our energies and lean into our limitedness.
With some scars, the first step is to be aware of them and alert to how they affect us. An obvious example might be the aftermath of a surgery: in the days immediately following, you should know to treat your body very carefully; perhaps you will never be as mobile or athletic as you used to be. Or perhaps it is a relational scar that keeps you from letting others into your life; perhaps it is an emotional scar that inhibits your ability to trust God.
But we can always invite God into it, allowing him to use our wounds, our scars, our marks for his glory. This is why Paul wrote, “If it’s necessary to brag, I’ll brag about my weaknesses” (2 Corinthians 11:30). Pastor Dave Gibbons points out, “I’m discovering that most people can’t relate to our achievements or successes. However, most people can relate to our pain and our losses, our disappointments and our suffering.” Francis of Assisi once said:
We have no right to glory in ourselves because of any extraordinary gifts, since these do not belong to us but to God. But we may glory in crosses, afflictions and tribulations, because these are our own.
As a teenager, a girl loses her mother to cancer. For years, she wrestles with the pain. As an adult, she finds herself drawn to others who have experienced profound loss, and discovers that the very difficult and trying experience of her early years are exactly what equips her to minister to others.
A boy, growing up in a difficult family environment in a tough neighborhood, learns how to build really good walls and to keep others out. But as he learns to trust and love again because of the grace of God, he is able to go back into the very neighborhood he grew up in, to kids in situations exactly like his own, and offer hope.
One of the fascinating things to note is that, after the resurrection, Jesus still bore the scars from the nails that pierced his hands and feet and the spear that entered his side. Even with his glorified, eternal body, he carried the marks of his death. In John 20:25-27, after Thomas expressed his disbelief that Jesus had been raised from the dead, saying, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, put my finger in the wounds left by the nails, and put my hand into his side, I won’t believe,” Jesus showed up and allowed him to do just that!
Perhaps, when we’re resurrected, we’ll bear the scars that we bore for the sake of the kingdom; and they will be scars that we can be proud of. Perhaps it won’t be until that day that we’ll finally experience the full understanding of Romans 8:28 (NIV): “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” In this reassurance, we can remain ever hopeful, ever joyful, ever loving, trusting that our ever hopeful, ever joyful, ever loving God says, “I’m making all things new” (Revelation 21:5), and he is doing just that.
LOOK & LISTEN: Gungor, “Beautiful Things”
The wound is where the Light enters you.
REFLECT & RESPOND
Head: What are some of the scars in your life — physical, emotional, relational, spiritual — that have healed over and are now part of your story?
Heart: What are some of the wounds that have not yet scarred over? Or scars that are still a little raw? What are some ways God has used your scars to minister to others?
Hands: Spend a few moments remembering God’s faithfulness in seeing you through difficult times and giving thanks for it. Then think of a friend who is going through a difficult time — enduring something that perhaps you experienced yourself. Pray for them and send them an encouraging text.
Bring healing to my wounds, God, and bring healing through my wounds. Amen.
Scars can remind us of the suffering we have endured; they can also remind us of the God whose faithfulness has brought us through.