No matter how dull or uninteresting we might think ourselves to be, we all have a story. That story also says a lot about us and is rich with triumph and tragedy.
For better or for worse, we live through it. With it secretly playing in the background of our consciousness, it unfolds in the caverns of our psyche like a movie soundtrack.
Like all stories, content is critical. The story told determines plot and themes affecting our decisions and how our personal story unfolds. Not unlike an author, who casts characters, we continuously cast and recast ourselves in the image of the narrative that we believe about ourselves. As the author makes decisions for the characters that will affect the ultimate outcome in the story, so do we based upon what we already believe about ourselves.
It is by this story through which we typically interpret our sense of reality. How you see yourself, the shadow you cast, is often who you grow into, for better or worse.
Your Story and Your Scars
I have said before that where there is a story, there are scars. Scars can run deep and have the power to define or redefine us. Folks that have suffered immense tragedy, abuse, violence, and so on often become defined by that story. Through no fault of their own, that story of abuse or alienation becomes our own. This can have a tyrannical power steering us into a downward spiral to a diminishing sense of self.
Our self-worth, how we view ourselves, suffers when it is defined by anything less than God and his Gospel. This is in itself, idolatry. A life story other than the Gospel of Christ is a False Gospel.
To have any other narrative through which we get our self worth other than the unshakable love and character of God is a fragile place to be. Our self-worth suffers all the more when what defines is not only NOT God, but also something negatively committed against us. That story can be nothing less than a demonic false god.
Without the Gospel as the center, our scars then become an anti-story giving birth to more chaos. Instead of weaving the tatters of life into a tapestry of grace, they can further diffuse, dissipate, and make our life story seem more senseless and purposeless.
The Gospel — A Better Story
In the Cosmos, gravity gives unity, consistency, and predictability to all things celestial. It is gravity shared in our solar system that establishes times, seasons, days, months, and years. Outside our solar system is a host of random floating space debris. Few of us know it, but Astronomers and Astrophysicists know that the immense gravity of Jupiter continually sweeps our solar system of earth ending events by sucking massive celestial menaces into the tractor beam of its gravitational pull.
The Gospel story is not unlike Jupiter. It slurps-up the seemingly random, and pointless scars of our present life into the orbit God’s cosmic love story. Our scars are no longer random junk that makes us likewise feel like junk. We have purpose; we are here for a purpose. Like gravity, the Gospel brings order and symmetry out of the chaos.
When we see ourselves as disconnected tissue deposits slogging through life’s suffering only to disappear from history’s horizon just to make room for others, it is hard to make sense of pain. It is harder to see that we are here for a purpose—that we have dignity, and that we are made in the image of God.
Those horrible scars do not have to define you. Through the Gospel, the scarred God comes and offers us his hand to the renewal of us, and of all things.
The God of Scars and the Scars of God
In the upper room, after the resurrection, Jesus came to meet his disciples. They were scarred men, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The Bible ironically never paints a “saintly” picture of the saints. They were fallen men, and yet Jesus comes to stand among them and stand with them.
Even after the resurrection, the disciples did not encounter a sterile and saccharin Jesus, all washed-up with no backstory. He was a savior with scars. Thomas protested: “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
Jesus neither rejects nor shames him. Jesus stands before Thomas saying:
“Put your finger here, and see my hands, and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”
For Thomas, the scars became sacramental; touching the scars in Jesus’ hands and side is the path of faith. Jesus condescends with his own flesh and scars to heal the rot of disbelief in Thomas’ affected soul. By his scars, Thomas’ doubts are healed.
Thomas responds with new faith. Rising from the dead of disbelief, Thomas cries: “My Lord and my God!” In his confession, Thomas is in Christ, he is the body of Christ, and he shares in the glory of Christ. Jesus’ scars are now Thomas’. Through the resurrection of the dead, God’s scars became your scars and they are the very food of life for us.
Proud of the Scars
One thing that may be unique to boys over girls is their absurd tendency to brag of their scars. Only a group of young men can bring “one-upmanship” to new heights of absurdity as they compare scars. “Oh you think that’s bad, you should hear how I got this one…”
With the right story, we often eventually become proud of our scars. The Gospel renews the center. Like the Sun, it reorders the solar system of our personal narrative and relocates us in the universal story of God. Now our wounds have new meaning in the light of Jesus’. So the next time we are comparing scars, we can now say, “Oh you think that’s good, wait till you hear what Jesus did for me!”