By: Catherine Larson|Published: November 2, 2009 8:13 PM
The Beauty of Scars (Dappled Light)
When I first began researching for As We Forgive, I was simultaneously drawn to and repulsed by some photographs of Rwandan survivors whose bodies were marked by jagged machete scars.
As I wrote in the book, which is about forgiveness and reconciliation in Rwanda, the scars came to symbolize for me both our incredible capacity for evil, and God’s amazing ability to heal unthinkably deep wounds. Scars came to represent to me a seam in the fabric of time. On the one hand, a scar will always symbolize the past—the wrongs, or wounds, or sufferings done to us. But on the other hand, they represent God’s ongoing miraculous healing in our present. The fact that they are no longer gaping wounds, but fused back into a new kind of wholeness is itself astonishing.
It forced me also to think about the scars of Jesus. Unlike the survivors I met in Rwanda, Jesus did not miraculously survive the wounds inflicted upon Him at the crucifixion. We know from God’s Word, and from the familiar words of our creed, that He died, was buried, and was resurrected. After the resurrection, He appeared to His disciples. And when Thomas famously doubted whether or not he was really seeing his Savior, Jesus told him to put his fingers into His scars.
For some reason, God, who had the power to heal every wound, to create things totally anew, left Jesus with the scars of His crucifixion in His resurrection body. This is a great mystery. I wonder if we will touch and see these scars when Christ comes again for us. If we ever get to hold the hand of Christ, I know these scars will speak to our souls of the depths and the riches of God’s gracious love toward us.
Not long after I found out I was pregnant, a singer by the name of Jennifer Daniels visited our church. She told us how she had nearly lost the twins she was carrying when she went into premature labor. The doctor ordered an emergency C-section so that they wouldn’t lose both babies.
One of the songs Jennifer sang was about that experience and was called “Tattoo.” It begins with one of the twins asking her to tell the story again: “Mama tell that one again, the one about the scar that stretches across your skin so far/ Don’t leave out the part, where you call it the tattoo that God in all His love picked out for you.” In the song, Jennifer recalls the frightful day where she almost had to say with Job, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”
The song talks about her recovery: “The wound began to heal, the muscles began to bind, the thought of God up in his tattoo parlor picking out my design/ And how He’s funny to commemorate our days, especially the hard-fought ones He saves.”
The scar that so many women would hate as an ugly blemish to their beauty—she is able to see differently. She sees it as a tattoo God picked out for her. She concludes the song with the line, “Jesus wears his scars for me; I’ll wear mine for you.”
I think this is the view that we must take of the wounds, both literal and psychological, that God heals in our lives. Whether they were meant for evil—like the wounds of my Rwandan friends, or whether they are part of the inherent suffering of our days—like Jennifer’s, these wounds by the grace of God have been healed or are in the process of being healed.
Our scars testify to a God who has the power to heal, to a God who has the power to transform evil done against us or sufferings we’ve borne. And sometimes, these scars even testify to times when we’ve been allowed to participate with Christ, in suffering on behalf of one another. It is these scars we should wear not as badges of shame, but as emblems of honor. After all, God picked out a tattoo for us like Christ’s.
Catherine Larson is a senior writer for BreakPoint.
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