The Scars Entrusted to Us

Kahlo-walking wounded
“Wounded Deer” by Frieda Kahlo

As a child, I played with GI-Joes. One brand of GI-Joe that I especially favored was Hasbro, the flexible, high-quality, and close-to-authentic replicas of military soldiers.

Genuine Hasbros were distinctive for many reasons, one of which was a cheekbone scar cast into each model. When my younger siblings and I searched for models at garage sales, we scanned each carefully;

“Does it have the Hasbro scar?” we asked.

If the GI-Joe had the scar, we knew that it was a Hasbro and eagerly added it to our collection.

Scars are identity marks.

Every person has scars, internal and external. Scars are from car accidents, broken hearts, fights, traumatic falls, sports games, wars, beatings, lost hopes, and destroyed relationships. They tell stories that most people don’t readily share.

But like it or not, scars form who we are.

Jesus has scars. His scars identify Him to us as our crucified Savior and Conqueror of death.

Before his crucifixion, Jesus was beaten to an unrecognizable pulp. During his crucifixion, Jesus was nailed to the cross, and following his crucifixion, Jesus was stabbed in the side to prove his complete death. This horrible, grotesque death left Jesus with scars post-resurrection for a reason.

One of the greatest individual confessions in the Bible comes from Thomas, who personalizes his shaking faith when he identifies the risen Christ and declares;

“My Lord and my God!”

How did Thomas recognize Jesus? By putting his fingers in the nail marks in Jesus’ hands and by touching the spear wound in Jesus’ side. Jesus’ scars were meant to be purposefully shared with the world.

“Well, I’d rather wear my scars than cover them.”

I used to tutor a man who was open about his past. He praised God’s grace in his life, emotionally recounting various stories. At the time, I didn’t appreciate the way parts of his past reminded me of mine. When he asked me about my past and God’s changes in my life, I mumbled something about not being ready to share or about how we should discuss his upcoming papers.

He sighed in frustration at my closure;

“Well, I’d rather wear my scars than cover them.”

That phrase stayed in my mind for so long that I eventually added it to my quote book. At first, I assumed he was cocky because nobody actually wants to display their scars.

Except Jesus did.  Jesus invites Thomas to see and feel his scars, a very intimate experience. Thomas’ response is an incredible increase of trust and assertion of truth. Jesus let his scars be instrumental in Thomas’ whole-hearted confession and surrender. He didn’t hide them.

I know about hiding scars; I struggled with cutting.

Cutting TSETUI’m not writing to explain why I cut – I’m not sure I understand why – but I knew that I should be ashamed of the struggle, so I wore an armful of bracelets.

I thank God for ending that struggle. But even after meeting Him, I wasn’t very open about the experience. In college, I normally wore an armload of bracelets to hide the couple lingering scars I had.

I only have two scars I can still see now, but to me, they remain embarrassing signs of weakness, of things that went wrong without my understanding, of my struggle with depression. One man’s bold encouragement and honesty didn’t change my perception.

But Thomas said, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails … I will never believe.”

And Jesus said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands, and put out your hand and touch my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe” (John 20:25 & 27). He recognized Thomas for seeing and believing, but blessed those who believe without seeing.

We want everyone to be in that “those-who-believe-without-seeing” group. It’s comfortable to us if we don’t have to share raw, painful wounds or embarrassing scars within our faith conversations. It’s easier if I don’t have to show people, “Look who I was. Look what God changed. I was as good as dead, but He picked me for love.”

“Look who I was. Look what God changed. I was as good as dead, but He picked me for love.”

Many Thomas’ are in the world. People won’t trust us and our God unless we are honest about what we’ve experienced, inviting them to see our injuries and believe. Our scars mean that God’s grace brought us to the other side of whoever or whatever wounded us – even if it was ourselves.

Now, I’m not putting the scars I gave myself as the result of my depression on the same level as the scars Jesus received to purchase the salvation of the world; that’s blasphemously degrading to what he suffered as my innocent, perfect Savior. However, I think there is a point to sharing the stories behind scars, no matter how they are received, in order to open a conversation about God.

We live in a society where experience is one of the ultimate authorities. If we haven’t suffered and we can’t share our experiences, people assume that our faith, that our God, doesn’t work in the real world.

By His Wounds TSETUNo scar is coincidental; scars are gifts that contribute to the testimony of God’s grace, help, strength, saving power, and protection in our lives. If we don’t share our scars, fresh or ancient, we’ve lost a part of the beautiful story God entrusted us to tell a world of aching sufferers.

 

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I chose Kahlo’s “Wounded Deer” (above) because of how much I admire her artistic self-portraits of personal reality. The Las Vegas Informer magazine states that “her pain and suffering is shown through her paintings which have bold and rich colors and outstanding symbols and animals.”

Check out this anti-self abuse website which was part of God’s gift of grace helping me as a non-Christian to resist cutting.

 

 

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Switching Gears

Girl on Train SG
“Girl on Train”

This past week, I attended T4G, an amazing, challenging Christian conference about the gospel, leadership, Christian heritage, the fundamentals of the faith, current issues, and so much more. Any godly immersion is always a positive, but still overwhelming experience for me because there is so much I still have to know! And yet, I already have all the answers to all of the world’s most pressing questions.

I’m not sure if all of the allusions of this poem, written two or so years ago when I was very young, confused, and excited, work within my biblical theological framework currently, and I suppose at some point all analogies crumble, but when this mostly forgotten, slightly rough draft, modern piece composed on a train trip back to Detroit popped up on my Facebook feed today, I felt extremely grateful.

Going back to the moment that God filled my mind makes everything I perceive within or outside of my understanding pale, causing me to change my focus and creating a larger room in my excitement and questions for the greater glory; God chose me, and I am God’s forever and forever.

Switching Trains

It wasn’t the first time I was on the train at 5am today –
and, like every day, I had a ticket for the early trip
and left in the morning, going backward.
I didn’t intend to be traveling backward – I never do –
but I asked one passenger which way the train was facing
– he pointed –
then, I noticed his glasses slipping off his nose,
his upside-down newspaper.
His shirt was inside-out.
I didn’t follow his finger.
Dare I trust an idiot’s directions?

Not many people talk on the early morning train, going backward.
The wrong corners of buildings appear first.
I never see the warning signs.
The trees run away.
It’s dizzying – so dizzying
but it mesmerizes me into complacency –
I just stay there.

Moving is admitting a mistake.
Switching seats screams for stares.
And, in the awkward train jolts of the uneven aisle, I might
fall.
I might drop my baggage.
My precious things might break; my neatly-foldeds might scatter.
Never!
No, I have to stay there, whizzing backward, ashamed to turn around.

She has moved into my space. Very gracefully, it seems.
Baggage all intact, she sits across from me, facing forward.
She smiles.
I put one on, too.
Eye to eye to eye to eye.
Our knees knock.
She smiles again.
I take mine off.

It’s awkward to be face-to-face with a forward, smiling passenger
when I’m going backward.
I try not to look up and meet her eyes.
She obviously asked intelligent questions.
Listened.
I was the idiot.
She says, cheerily, “I’ll be going to the dining car. You?”
“I don’t.”
And then, she’s gone, baggage still intact.

Another woman gets on and sits next to me.
She obviously doesn’t mind the early morning train,
going backward.
She doesn’t speak, but I’m satisfied. She is like me.
Our minds have married into the dizziness
mesmerizing our synopses, clipping and reattaching the grey brain matter.
“What do you take the train for?” she asks.
I was happy with quiet, but now I say, confidently,
“I always take this train.”
She is happy with quiet now.

By and by, she says,
“I get mental treatments at the hospital that way a ways.
I’m dying.
I have to take this train.”
I am suddenly startled with the quiet.
Our minds have not married.
She has to be here?
Don’t we all choose to board?

I tug the conductor’s sleeve.
“Do I have a ticket for tomorrow’s train, too?”
Do I have to stay here?
He’s confused.
“You have the ticket. I just run the train.”
He turns around and continues running the train.
I’m sick of seeing the trees avoid me.
The odd corners are wrong.
I don’t understand the signs.

Blurred Scenery SG
“Peaceful Scene Blurred”

Dizzy, I get up and walk toward the bathroom.
With my hands, I turn the faucet on.
I splash water on my face.
Head down.
When I look in the mirror, I see
water droplets sparkling down my cheeks,
catching on my bangs, plinking into the sink like diamonds in a wishing well,
slipping down the drain.
Gone.
The mirror tells me that my glasses are sliding off my nose.
My hat is backward.
I’m only wearing one earring.

The train stops.
I hold tight to my baggage because I feel I’m getting off.
“Watcha doing?” the conductor shouts, angrily.
He tries to grab my arm.
“We’ll take-off again!”

Suddenly, I have switched. Very ungracefully, it seems.
I’m on another train now, trembling.
I’ve dropped a suitcase – it just fell from my watery hands.
My clothes unfolded.
Something broke.

Stumbling around, I hear,
“You may not want to stand there.”
Pushing my glasses up my nose, I see
a Man lay down his LIFE magazine.
“You’d be standing backward.” He says.
I can’t speak.
“Are these your things?” He bends down to pick up
my baggage.
He doesn’t flinch at the weight, the missing,
the broken.
He says, “Sit close to Me.
I’ll take your baggage.”

Originally posted on Tuesday Thursday Pen.