Recently, while sharing in a women’s group, I recognized something wonderful about God’s grace. I was talking about a childhood injury that had left a very large, homely scar on my left arm. Since I was only five years old at the time of the accident I was still in the formative years of character development. I don’t remember the scar being a blemish or a shame to me. I was raised in a solid, supportive Christian family where there was plenty of love and laughter to ease life’s ups and downs. Now, as a middle-aged adult with lots of life experience behind me, this scar has taken on a respectful place of significance and possesses a valuable moral to me.
Life on earth is a high adventure, but often a very dangerous one. How many adults, while reminiscing about the activities and experiences of their growing up years, have made the comment, “I don’t know how we lived through our childhood?” We may joke about that as we look back but accidents do happen; people make mistakes and life takes turns we don’t expect. People get hurt; not just by bodily injury, but by emotional, mental and spiritual wounds as well. I believe the older we get the more we realize what a battle we really are in, and how much bulky “scar tissue” we lug from place to place on this pilgrimage when healing does not progress as it should; not to mention the added risks of swelling, infection and disease!
My childhood accident was a result of my own thoughtlessness, founded in simple, childish naivety; but it resulted in a terrible wound—a gash on my arm that cut to the bone and opened a split nearly two inches wide! That’s a big injury on a small arm; but in the atmosphere of my secure home, I recovered quite nicely without additional trauma or pain. My scar remained, and it still turns a purplish-pink color if I get too much sun; but it’s only lasting significance is the profound reminder of the goodness of God in my life. There is no emotional trauma attached to that scar, because the predominant memories of that experience are, to me, rescue when I felt helpless; grace when I had made a bad mistake; and loving care to cushion the healing process.
Our emotional, mental and spiritual traumas and injuries may not be as obvious, nor draw as much attention, as physical wounds. They hurt, however, just as much if not worse and they definitely leave big, ugly scars on our hearts and lives. Many people today, including dedicated Christian adults, are not necessarily surrounded by a loving, caring family to help them through the recovery process. Loneliness may overwhelm us at times, pushing the hurts deeper than before; yet healing is close at hand. The Bible assures us that there is one who sticks closer than a brother, a mom or a dad. Jesus took our wounds to the cross with Him and bore all the pain in our stead. All we have to do is come to Him honestly and leave our burdens at His feet. Of course, just as my doctor ordered daily exercises for me during my recuperation (and I do remember that pain!), we need to obey our Lord’s instructions for health and recovery even when we don’t understand how they will help or why it is taking so long.
Remember the story in 2 Kings 5, how Naaman, the commander of Syria’s army, had to go dip in the muddy Jordan River seven times before his leprosy was healed? He was humiliated, and felt that he could think of better methods himself; but obedience to God’s instruction through the prophet Elisha was what healed him. What about the blind man in John 9? How must he have felt when Jesus mixed saliva with dirt and smeared the mud balls on his eyes? He had to go a step farther and wash in the pool of Siloam before he could see! Gideon, as we recall from Judges 7, had to cut his army from over 30,000 men down to only 300 and then break a bunch of make-shift lanterns while shouting from the top of a hill to accomplish his victory--for the glory of God, that is! God made it very clear to Gideon, “I don’t want you to do this your way. I want you to do it my way so that Israel won’t be tempted to claim the victory for herself!”
The history of human experience tells us that God chooses to wind our progress in this life through a series of hurdles for which we cry out to Him for help. Pressing through our pain, we reach toward the mark of the high calling in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:10-14), which brings a burst of victory and fresh hope and faith to take us to the next challenge, where we cry out to God once again!
Now here is the object of our rumination: Triumph obscures the scars. Through these multiple tracks of suffering, responding to God, and healing we grow spiritually.
Over time, surrounded by His mercy when we feel helpless, His grace when we make mistakes and His loving care to cushion the healing process, our scars stop dominating our “skinscape” and become dots on our horizon. Instead of sticking out like a sore thumb they begin to soften, and blend in to who we really are. They do not disappear; but they are no longer identifying factors in our lives because we become known, not by our experience or what we have done, but by what He has done in us.
Are you a wounded soldier as I have been? Do your scars from the battles of life dominate your image, drawing attention to the places where you stumbled or the mistakes that you made? Rejoice with me, my friend; and let the Master’s healing take its course. We need not race into His courts with a war cry, screaming for an audience; He already knows our pain. We can come with a sincere heart, whether it is full of wrenching sobs, silent tears or lots of questions. He will hear us, for He has promised to replace our ashes with His beauty; our sorrow with His joy; and our heaviness with a garment of praise, that He might be glorified in our lives [Isaiah 61:3].
Come with me and lay your pain and fear, trauma and disappointment at His feet, and trust Him to make you whole. Victory over the past, strength for the present, and hope for the future will be yours; and the unsightly scars that were once painful memories for you will become trophies won—reminding you that He hears your cry; He heals your wounds; and He holds your crown!
by Rebecca Bryan-Howell