I was a junior in high school when I got my first major scar. It was during AP chemistry class, and I was fiddling around with my unknown substance, trying to determine its anion and cation properties. All at once, I received an inspiration and grabbed the pipette my lab partner and I shared, dipping it into the nitric acid. Immediately the solution spewed out and onto my wrist, bubbling and leaving an interesting wound that didn’t hurt but sure looked strange.
After my chemistry teacher put a neutralizing powder on my wrist and filled out an accident report, I discovered that my sheepish lab partner forgot to rinse out the pipette before I picked it up. To this day, I’ll never forget the details of that memory and how the scar on my wrist came to be. The reality of how and why I got that mark is emblazoned in my mind and remains very much a part of my life’s story.
Jesus’s scars represented something worthy of mentioning during the Easter season. We don’t often think of the fact that the marks on His body didn’t disappear after He received His glorified body. No, even after the Resurrection, His marks were visible and very real. It’s important to note that the purpose of His scars extended beyond the story of His crucifixion. His scars represented His entire life, and thus we, too, should carry the marks of Jesus.
After listening to the gospel about Thomas doubting who Jesus was until he touched His scars, I thought of a contemporary Christian song called “What Scars Are For” by Mandisa that summarizes quite beautifully that scars are imprints of where we’ve been, who we are, and how we carry the visible marks of a life of suffering and healing:
They remind me of Your faithfulness
And all You brought me through
They teach me that my brokenness
Is something You can use
They show me where I’ve been
And that I’m not there any more
That’s what scars, that’s what scars are for
Our hands, feet, and hearts should be marred from a life lived for Jesus. They should tell a story about how we’ve cared for others, followed in Jesus’ footsteps and traveled relentlessly upon the path He has set before us. They should speak of how our hearts have wept, rejoiced, and carried the burdens of others through compassion and mercy. Scars tell that story; they, as the song states, are an indelible reminder that we’ve been somewhere rough, but we’ve also been healed.
When Sarah was born, I remember how odd her hands looked to me. She had four fingers fused together, covered in this incredibly smooth layer of skin that resembled a little mitten. I used to stroke that layer of skin as I’d hold her and talk to her, knowing that one day it would be gone. Sure enough, as the time approached for her first orthopedic surgery to separate her fingers, I grieved what her unblemished hands had been, knowing that the surgery would lead to greater autonomy so that she could lead a fairly normal life one day.
And the scars on every finger remain on her uniquely shaped little hands. When I hold her hand as we cross the street or wipe each finger after mealtime, I see them so clearly. Ben and I did as the orthopedic occupational therapist instructed us to do: we massaged them daily with a thick cream so as to reduce the effects and appearance of the scarring. But it was inevitable that the evidence would remain, even in some minuscule amount.
Sarah’s hands quite literally reflect the scars of Jesus, in that she – as an innocent one who suffered a very painful surgery as a baby – is a visible but silent witness of how suffering can and often does bring about healing in our lives.
I think of how we try to eliminate those marks on our bodies that indicate what we’ve endured, our battle marks so to speak. Women desperately try anything to rid of dreaded stretch marks after they give birth. And we’re encouraged to cover up scars or at least conceal them. What are we hiding? Shouldn’t we be more like Jesus, who unabashedly showed His hands, side, and feet to the apostles and even invited Thomas to touch them?
What if our scars remind, not only us but also others, that we’re human, that we’re imperfect and yet resilient? Every wrinkle on our face, every stretch mark on our bellies, every scar from a cut or accident all contribute to the journey of our lives, a story that hopefully reflects love filtered through sacrifice.
If we hide the reality of our battle marks, we are ashamed then of a love that has undergone death and has been resurrected to new life in Christ. I don’t believe God wants us to be ashamed of our imperfect marks. Rather, He wants us to embrace them, to show them to others, and to one day give them back to God as the only gift we really had to offer Him – the wounds, the misery, the pain, the suffering, all given out of love and for His glory to be radiant through us.
Maybe God even sees our scars as beautiful, because they comprise who we are and what we’ve been through. Rough, weathered hands can be a sign of one who had her hands in the laundry or sink or garden in order to care for her family. Calloused feet might indicate that one has toiled for decades in difficult work in order to support his wife and children. And a heart that is wounded is one that most closely unites itself to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Our scars, like those of the resurrected Jesus, will never fade completely away. The retention of such marks is what leads us to Heaven. They show the world what we’ve offered in love, what we’ve given up, and how we have died to vainglory in order to rise in humility. That is why we should carry our scars with dignity and honor, knowing that we, too, will touch the hands, feet, and side of Jesus – as He will ours.