When I moved into my new home a few years ago, I had a full-size kitchen for the first time in my adult life. I was eager to get settled in and get cooking, but first I needed to make a purchase. I was in need of anything— absolutely anything— that would cover an ugly mark on the practically pristine white countertop. It looked like a burn mark or a deep-set, dark-colored stain. No matter what I tried, the stain/mark would not disappear. So I made the decision to cover it up.
The quick fix for the issue was to purchase a dish drying rack that would sit right over the ugly spot. Unless someone moved the drying rack aside or was wiping down the countertops, no one would know the spot was even there. But even though I covered the ugly mark, I still knew it was there, and it kind of bugged me. That little mark of imperfection could not be undone, and it was a constant reminder of someone else’s mistake. Perhaps something stainable sat in that place too long or a hot pan was forgotten on the countertop and ingrained the burn mark in place. There was certainly a story behind that spot on my countertop, but that story was not mine to share; it was a story that only the previous owner could tell.
If scars or marks of imperfection could talk, what would they say? What story would they tell? I find myself asking this question as we journey into Holy week. I think of the obvious marks that are a part of my physical body. There is the obvious visual impairment, identified by my underdeveloped eyes and their cloudy hue. There is the large mole on the side of my nose. My teeth are crooked despite the fact I once wore braces. There is the scar on my arm from a mishap with the stove— a scar that once it began to heal, I continued to pick at because I hated how the puckered skin appeared when I glanced at it.
And those are just my physical scars— the scars that I and others can see just by looking. But what about the scars that no one but me can see— the scars that only God knows about because they are so ingrained on my heart? What would those scars say if they could speak out loud? I think about my personal relationship with Christ and how He has walked with me at the time some of those scars on my heart began to form— scars of grief, scars of insecurity, scars of disappointment, scars of jealousy, scars of emotional pain and bitterness…
Each one of these internal heart scars has a story to tell, and even though I have moved on from some of these hurts and found forgiveness, evidence of these scars remain. I have been hurt deeply at the loss of loved ones, so as a result, I have often put a guard up in new relationships so I am less likely to be hurt again. My insecurities led to an increasing need to succeed, so I practically burned myself out, trying to be all things to all people. I had to resign from Camp and take a step back, but the physical and emotional strain on my body lingered long after I found peace in walking away.
The feeling of disappointment kept me from seeking out traditional publishing for my books; instead, I made the decision to self-publish and take creative control of my writing and distribution. My tendency for jealousy held me back in truly being myself; instead I would focus on others’ success and beat myself up for not meeting a particular standard. The scars of emotional pain and bitterness still exist today, even though I am in a much more positive place. But coming through chronic allergies and my anger toward God in that season of my life has been a constant reminder of how He lovingly cared for me even when I tried to push Him away. To this day, if I encounter someone struggling with bitterness, I am transported back to some of the emotional turmoil that existed for me as I worked through my own struggles. It has been nearly seven years since I felt the darkness of despair, but one cannot endure deep pain like that and not come out of the fire completely unscathed. Yes, God protected me and provided for me, but the deep-set scars that remain from the work He did on my heart are not going to just disappear overnight. Those scars are a reminder of what He taught me and the unique way in which He brought me back into relationship with Him.
Even though we may not wear our scars on our sleeve, sometimes it is apparent that someone has a story to tell. As one shares their testimony, some of those scars are revealed. As one shares their heart with a friend over coffee, there may be an inkling of a scar once hidden but now visible. As a musician or artist displays their creativity, those scars may bleed into the music or the colors blended on a canvas. We may not intentionally show our scars to others, but sometimes our scars are such a big part of who we are that they become visible in the everydayness of life. We may try to hide behind our scars, perhaps wishing that they never existed, but if not for the scars, there would be no story.
I was nearing the end of my eighteen-month struggle with poor health and spiritual bitterness when I entered a classroom on the campus of Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. I was at a week-long competition for artists and songwriters, and I was running late to a networking and mentoring session. My sister was with me, and we hoped to sneak into the back of the room without being noticed, but that was not to be. There were only a few other contestants in the room along with the moderator/mentor, so it was very obvious when we entered the room. The facilitator paused in his remarks to greet us and welcome us to the group. Then he said something that caught me off guard. He commented that it was important for artists to share their heart from the stage and make a connection to their audience, and that’s when he looked over at us and said something like; “I can tell she has a story to tell; I just know it.” My sister later told me she was pretty sure he was talking about me because He looked directly at me.
How did he know I had a story to tell? Could he sense it? I will never know because I never asked him. But either way, he is right; I definitely have a story to tell because my scars— physical and internal— bear the marks of what I have endured and overcome.
As we journey through Holy week, it is important to be reminded that Jesus also has a story to tell. His physical scars come to mind right away— the painful marks that must have remained after the crown of thorns was placed on his head, the nail prints in his hands and feet, the wound in His side…. Thomas placed His fingers over some of those scars so he could be certain that His Lord had risen from the dead. Jesus’ physical scars remind us that He suffered pain and deep anguish, but it is the inner anguish that perhaps tells the greatest story.
Jesus was human and divine both at the same time. He felt the physical pain but also the incredible burden of this world— the sin of all mankind and the rejection from His father in Heaven. He wept as he rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, and the deep sorrow that He simply could not contain is evidence of His inner turmoil.
But on that first Easter Sunday morning, His physical scars were a tangible way to visualize that the Scriptures had been fulfilled. I think of a simple lyric from Cindy Morgan’s 1998 release The Loving Kind, “The scars that you bear will one day make the whole world free” (“Can You Hear Me”). The wounds that He received as He breathed His last on the cross made a way for us to receive eternal life. As the lyric of that song put it, we are free. If Jesus’ scars could speak— if they could tell a story— they would say, “You are free. You are loved. You are forgiven. You are made new.” If not for His scars, there would be no story.
This Easter, may the scars you bear on your heart and physical body tell the story of His work of redemption in your life. Blessings to you, my friends, this Easter and in the days to come.