Tell me about your scars.
Not just the ones that disfigure the face, neck, and body. Like the gnarled, numb, and useless hands, debilitating headaches, and unyielding joints. Have they taken up residence on your private property? Were you once eagle-eyed, and now dim sighted? Do you hear garbled sounds coming from deafened ears? Perhaps fatigue overwhelms you and incapacitates you in a vast fog.
Can your scars be seen on the outside? Maybe they’re like mine, concealed like mold, hidden in the rafters where you live, causing a slow, deceptive decay. This decay leads to structural damage seeping its way to the foundations you never thought could be shaken; foundations like hope, joy, peace, patience, and purpose. Shaky baseboards begin to creak under the pain and pressure, echoing:
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?"
Various versions of this groaning have escaped my lips from time to time. How about you? The truth is, sometimes we just don't hear the answers to our questions; the whys, the how longs, the when.
The dull ache in my questioning that never goes away, though? It is a scar that seems to be hiding a 'me' I don't recognize anymore. It's as if trauma waltzed into my life and borrowed my identity, only to lose it, like an old dirty sock still spinning somewhere in laundry oblivion. Are you like me, I wonder? Is the identity scar tangled up and buried deep in your laundry basket?
While I'm certain God hears me in the groanings, I don’t always hear Him answering me back. Sometimes I think the scars of my body shout so loudly they drown out His voice. Am I forsaken, though? Is that my identity now?
Jesus cried out Psalm 22:1 as He died on the cross. The agony He experienced in His final moments was His separation from God that occurred for the first and only time in eternity.
Because our sins were a millstone around His neck, God could not look upon the wickedness and turned his back. Jesus was abandoned. Blotted out.
No matter how bad a day you and I may be having in our bodies, it will never equate to the separation that Jesus endured.
We will never truly know what being forsaken is like. Thankfully, Jesus took that upon Himself for us that we may never have to experience it. He spared us from sin and separation from God. He also gives us the power to be transformed in Him. Jesus' identity has always been the triune God. His body, made flesh, was transformed, completing the whole picture for who He is, in us. I believe, in our scars, He is creating a full picture of who we are in Him.
If you aren’t feeling very transformed yet, I get it. You are feeling the brokenness in your flesh. Me too. So how do we move past the suffering to embrace the scars?
I've often wondered about Jesus and His scars. I mean, He rose from death and separation from God and was transformed and glorified for us. Then, He came back to this earth for a time...
Scars are growths that mark the spot where healing begins after past injury or trauma.
Let that marinate for a moment.
The glorified transformed body of Christ came back to earth to show the very spot where healing begins.
"...Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! 'Peace be with you,' he said. As He spoke, He showed them the wounds in His hands and His side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord!" John 20:19b-20
The scars identify who Christ is and why He died for us. They are His badge of honor. He would not be who He is without His scars. When He asked the disciples to look at and touch them, He was relating to their flesh...their humanity. His scars are a result of growth from the suffering, to the cross, to victory. They mark the spot where healing begins.
You see, He can truly empathize with you and me. He can comfort us best because He knows extreme pain, abandonment, humiliation, and betrayal.
He wraps His scar-ridden body around ours, like a balm of soothing ointment with great purpose. He is a kindred Spirit. Our brother in the suffering. His identity makes Him a welcome presence because His words are not just flowery platitudes or careless encouragements meant to pacify us. They are truths spoken from One who knows. We are inclined to listen because not only does He understand - He was victorious and has the scars to prove it!
Our scars are our identity as well. Although we have been through things that others will never understand, we have been empowered, in our weakness, to understand others. We have experienced traumas that have changed who we are, forever. There is tremendous growth I've experienced through my pain. In that growth, the scars transform who I am—a wiser, more selfless me. I have a daily choice. I can lament at the foot of my own sad cross about who I was or what I'll never be, or I can choose, daily, to wear the badge of my transformed body in Christ.
Christ doesn't just invite us in to look at His treasured scars. He invites us to look at our own and to show them to others, just as He did. There is great healing in this for us and for others coming behind us.
Because... scars are growths that mark the spot where healing begins.
Looking closely at my scars helps me to untangle who I am. Sharing them with others gives me the full picture of whose I am.
I could never write words as beautiful as these, so I will leave you with an encounter written by Dr. Richard Seltzer. There is simplistic beauty in the way this disfigured young lady is made whole in her scars.
"I stand by the bed where a young woman lies, her face postoperative, her mouth twisted in palsy, clownish. A tiny twig of the facial nerve, the one to the muscles of the mouth, has been severed. She will be thus from now on. The surgeon followed with religious fervor the curve of her flesh; I promise you that. Nevertheless, to remove the tumor in her cheek, I had cut the little nerve.
Her young husband is in the room. He stands on the opposite side of the bed, and together they seem to dwell in the evening lamplight, isolated from me, private....The young woman speaks.
"Will my mouth always be like this?" She asks.
"Yes," I say, "It will. Because the nerve was cut."
She nods and is silent. But the young man smiles.
"I like it," he says. "It's kind of cute."
All at once, I know who he is. I understand, and I lower my gaze. One is not bold in an encounter with God. Unmindful, he bends to kiss her crooked mouth, and I am so close I can see how he twists his own lips to accommodate to hers,
…to show her that her kiss still works."
-Richard Seltzer, Mortal Lessons (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1996), p. 45