*Excerpts from a sermon I preached Sunday morning, January 22, 2017 at Calvary Church in San Antonio, modified for publication on this blog.
“And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.
Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.
And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.” (John 20:26-28)
I bet I can make an accurate blanket-generalization about everyone reading this article: somewhere on your body, there is a scar. Did I predict correctly? I’m not surprised. We all have at least one real scar that carries with it a story of valor and heroism. OK, maybe you just cut yourself in a horrible way shaving, but the likelihood of you having a scar with a story is very high. For little boys and girls across the world, a bloody knee or a broken bone makes a scar almost inevitable. It’s a badge of honor for some (mostly little boys,) and a mark of defeat or shame for others.
I have a few scars that have stood the test of time and each of them is accompanied by an epic (in my mind) story.
When I was very young, maybe three or four years old, I was bit on the ear by a golden retriever that I was playing with. I was cared for by a lady who kept a few other little boys and I’m sure we were antagonizing the dog in some traumatic way that caused him to lash out at me. Maybe I bit his ear first. Who really knows. I was too young to remember the details, but what I do know is that I can run my finger along my left ear and feel a bump from the scar tissue that built up from that vicious attack (sarcasm.)
Not long after the dog bite I experienced my next big injury that left a mark. My parents had a bed that stood high above the bedroom floor. I vaguely remember this occasion, wrestling with my Dad on the bed and taking a tumble off the side. On my first trip skydiving to the floor I caught the edge of the side table adjacent to their bed. It missed my left eye by centimeters. There is a small mark no bigger than a 3.5mm headphone jack at the end of my eyebrow to remind me of my first wrestling victory.
Do you have time for one more?
When I was in high school I was cut on my side with a box cutter.
Sounds like a great story, right? Here’s what happened. I was participating in a work day at our church in Weatherford, Texas. We were having a particularly difficult time getting a certain strip of carpet up from the floor. I had pulled and pulled, channeling all of the glory days when I was winning tug-of-war matches single handedly (never happened.) Eventually my Dad came over and assisted me in the pulling efforts. The particularly stubborn strip of carpet finally gave up, and we tumbled to the floor. After dusting ourselves off and laughing in frustration, we got back to work. It wasn’t until a few minutes later that I felt an itching sensation under my shirt. I stepped to the bathroom and lifted up my shirt to reveal that I had a small gash in my right side. It was later revealed that my Dad, in his effort to assist me, had stuck the box cutter in his pocket. When the carpet gave way, he landed on top of me. Four stitches later, I had a pretty sweet scar. Did you think that there was going to be a story about me getting stabbed in a nasty high school fight? Sorry to disappoint. I may have let a few people believe that as time went on. Of course, I never did actually suggest that as the cause.
Scars get a bad rap. As kids, we are told not to mess with chicken pox or acne because they could leave scars permanently on our face or body. I’ve never had chicken pox, so scratch away, kids.
I’m sure we could find people in the scriptures that had a substantial amount of scars. If I were allowed to take a bit of creative liberty I would say that I’m sure there were times where Noah missed the nail when he was swinging the hammer (can’t remember the verse. Google it.) Perhaps David had nasty sheep bite scars from times when his flock felt unusually rebellious. I don’t think anyone could come away from a fight with a bear or lion without a scratch.
If not physical, we know that David had some emotional scars.
Scars are not always visible to the natural eye. (click to tweet.)
He was the son that wasn’t picked, initially. His brothers were thought of first when the prophet came to visit. He was a man on the run, chased by a king with whom he was once in good standing. He was an adulterer, liar, thief, and murderer. He lost his son, Absalom. I can’t fathom the magnitude of the emotional scars these events left on his life.
Job had emotional scars. He had people who were his friends telling him to do something completely contrary to his character so that he could be rid of his pain and simply die. That had to be a blow to his ideas about the support system he had in place.
The point(s) that I’ve been trying to make thus far are this: you are not the only one with scars, and scars are not always visible. Sometimes scars on your life can also cause scars on other people around you. Depression, sin, hurt, failure, and loss are all things that can scar us. The way we respond to these things could directly wound a loved one, and cause them to have a scar. When we self harm or retreat into isolation, the impact on our families and friends can be severe. How many parents have said the words, “what did I do wrong? Where did I make a mistake?”
Sometimes wounds reopen, and the evidence of healing seems distant.
My best scar story is definitely one that happened while I was at Bible College. I went to a school devoted to training up young ministers. The majors were Biblical Studies, Theology, Music, and a few other ministry related topics. Because of the nature of that environment, there were a strict set of rules in place. One of the most notable rules was that students were not permitted to have televisions in their dorm rooms. One day I was coming back to the dorms from a late night shift at Chili’s, when I noticed a faint flickering comings from the window of the student that lived below me. I decided that I would put the fear of the Lord in him, and proceeded to smack my hand against his window. It seemed like a great prank at the time. Here’s the thing; unbeknownst to me, the window was broken. My hand came crashing through the window, and I’d be willing to bet that that young man hasn’t watched a second of television since that dark and quiet night. I ran inside, bound up my wound, and hid it from the world. I did not want to get in trouble, or have my parents find out what had happened. The wound healed on its own.
A few years later I made a very poor decision. I started messing with that old wound. By this time scar tissue had built up and there was a small knot on my finger. I poked and prodded it, and the wound decided to revolt against me. It became infected, and I had to have surgery to get the tissue removed. I also had to go back several times due to infection after the surgery, and was placed on various medications to combat the germs. I had made a conscious decision to mess with a wound that wasn’t truly healed. In the end, I had caused myself more pain, more time, and spent more money fixing the issue.
That’s the way life happens. If we don’t allow something to completely heal, it can backfire on us. But the evidence of healing that comes from a closed and cared for wound is a testament to the power of the body, and of God’s spirit.
“But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. ” (John 20:24-25)
A few weeks ago, I had this thought: Jesus exposed his own scars so that Thomas would believe, and here I am always trying to cover mine.
Scars carry weight. They tell a story of triumph, perseverance, and determination. They always indicate that their wearer has overcome some significant obstacle, and in most cases, is better for it. Jesus exposed himself and became vulnerable in front of his disciples so that one would believe the miracle that he had done. Why am I so determined to shelter my insecurities and issues when there is someone that needs to hear what God has done in my life? I have to be the light, and the evidence of saving and healing power of Jesus for others to see that they can make it through their trials.
That doesn’t always mean you lead with a story about your scars. You have an obligation to yourself, and your loved ones, to protect the integrity and image of anyone involved in your trial. I don’t meet someone and immediately pull up my shirt to reveal the scar on my side. Those stories have a way of eventually rising to the surface. Remember this verse, and be blessed:
“Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee:” (Proverbs 2:11)
Thank you for reading.