Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Scars (and a Rabbit Hole)

How often do you think about your scars?  Well, it's not necessarily polite dinner conversation, but we've all got a few, I'm sure, and some stories to go with them.

My son has one on his chin that he got when he was four years old and decided it would be a good idea to “power slide” on his belly across a concrete gym floor. I've got a few permanent marks on my knees from bike wrecks as a kid and a few more from a surgery in college to repair a torn muscle. In fact, I've got a big scar that traces the outline of my entire spine, because, even though I truly am “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139), I was also unique in that my spine was “crooked as a question mark” (the great Forrest Gump) and needed straightening out during my teen years – as did my attitude during that same time, by the way.

It's all just part of being human, I guess. But in looking to the future, I've always assumed that in heaven there would be no scars. You know, “no tears, no sickness,” etc. I always figured that our injurious disfigurements would fall into those categories, but now I'm not so sure.

 <now entering rabbit hole>

Case in point: when Jesus was resurrected, triumphed over death, and appeared to the disciples, he did, in fact, offer his scars as evidence of his identity. His body was renewed, but the wounds were still there. Poor ole Thomas gained his discouraging nickname by demanding to see and touch the scars in Jesus' hands and side before he would believe. The continuance of the scars is part of the Gospel story.

As a disclaimer, let me say that I am by no means an expert theologian when it comes to end-time events and the details of our next life, but I'm just wondering and wandering down this little rabbit hole, so I thought I'd invite you along . . .

What if what we deem with our earthly eyes to be ugly scars, God sees in truth as holy landmarks on our journey here. Like literal “plot points” on our person or markers in each of our stories, rather than something hideous to be rid of.  And perhaps they're more permanent and hold more significance than we can even imagine right now.

Jesus' scars in his resurrected body demonstrated not only that he was indeed who he claimed to be, but they also proclaimed the greatness of what God had done in the death and resurrection of the Messiah. The scars were a testimony.  His flesh was ripped and gaping, his human life faded away with a few shallow breaths, and it hurt, it really hurt!  But now – now he had been brought beyond all that by the power and plan of the Father. He had stepped into a new existence, an eternal one. But he still carried the scars of his earthly journey as a necessary testimony to the power of the Almighty God!

I think of our Christian brothers and sisters in foreign lands, some here in the states even, who literally carry the scars of Christ on their bodies. They understand better than most what it is to suffer for holding to their faith in the one true God, and they have the marks to prove it. Those injuries certainly live as a testimony! But go beyond the physical and think of the emotional and psychological, the unseen scars that you and I bear. The injury is healed, perhaps, but the scars remain in the corners of our minds and hearts as a fresh reminder of where we've been and how much it hurt. But hopefully those scars also stand as testimony to the power of God and His relentless pursuit and redemption of His creation (i.e. “you and me”!), and thus, they are beautiful.  They exhibit to the world the healing, saving power of the Creator that lives in you and in me.

I, myself, have numerous physical scars that tell about my life – nothing movie-worthy, I'm afraid, but they do color my story. The unseen scars, however, are just as real and usually remain tender to the touch. Will those marks carry over into eternity?  I'm not sure. But if they do, I hope that both now and later they serve the same purpose as the wounds in my Savior's hands and side – to testify to the magnificence of God and the extravagance of His love for a broken world and a helpless one like me.

So perhaps we shouldn't take such care to cover up our scars. Maybe we should share them more openly and embrace the fact that they tell the tale God is writing with our own flesh and blood until the day we meet perfection (however that looks) in eternity. May He help us revel in the uniqueness of our “life-marks”. I desperately want mine to tell a good story.