“If I chose to keep my scars, you can, too.”
Jesus whispered those words into my spirit as I was lying in bed one night—thinking too much about things past and wishing they’d just go away. I was a little stunned when He said those words but also comforted. Comforted by the fact that He said “scars” and not “wounds,” meaning healing really is possible; but also, a little uneasy because scars are still visible, and they come with a process and with stories.
Keep Your Scars
I began going down a mental trail I’ve been walking quite a bit these last few years. Asking this complex question: “Is it okay to simultaneously broken yet whole?” Being honest, I sometimes struggle in church when people say, “Don’t claim anything less than wholeness! You are a totally new person in Christ. He died for your wholeness! Forget your past and only embrace your God-given destiny.”
A few things ring through my mind when I hear that statement:
1) Yes. We are a new creation in Christ. Our past no longer defines us, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still impact us. We are holistic people. God made us that way, and that’s okay.
2) I don’t feel 100% whole probably 98% of the time. Does that make me unChristian?
3) We experience hurt in this world. Difficulty is actually guaranteed to Christians (John 16:33). So why isn’t there more structural support in churches for hurting families, marriages, singles, addicts and identity-torn people within the church?
The Three Day Process
Please don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the church. I’m passionate about serving in a local community and being surrounded by brothers and sisters—but I think everyone (including myself) can be a bit more okay with addressing pain within our faith. Within Christianity, there seems to be this undesired tension between brokenness (the cross) and restoration (the empty grave). People want to jump from the cross to resurrection in one day. Forgetting the three-day process between where freedom actually happened and where the actual victory over death took place.
Paul tells us to put off our old nature and put on our new selves in Colossians 3 (mostly referring to putting off sinful patterns and putting on God-glorifying attitudes, thoughts and actions). To put off is often more like peeling off of scales such as the metaphor of Eustace shedding his dragon scales with Aslan in the Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
Carrying Your Cross
Christ also says,
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matt. 16:24-25)
important to note that in Roman times a cross was a brutal form of torture, usually weighing over 300 pounds. Carrying a cross is no easy thing. That’s painful. Christ is asking us to follow Him down the road of pain—and ultimately death. Death to our flesh, death of things not of Him; the death of unhealthy relationships, false identities and selfish motives. And you know what? Bearing sin can feel like that, and it causes some nasty scars.
Our sins, the sins of those around us; Jesus knew that being a Christian—being a “little Christ”—came with not only the resurrection, but also the scars.
Don’t Hide Your Scars
Those scars tell of pain and wounds, but they also tell of stories of victory, healing, forgiveness and acceptance. They tell of the following, the dying, the stillness between were victory actually takes place and the resurrection. Those scars are powerful. And I think that’s why Jesus chose to keep those scars. Those scars shattered the doubt of the disciples, and to this day, those scars are on the hands of the one who placed the stars in the sky and formed our hearts. Jesus said to His disciples and is saying to us today, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” (John 20:27).
So, don’t hide your scars. Instead, let them minister to you and to others as Jesus does. Protect your heart but share your stories and remind others that scars don’t make us broken, but beautiful. Remind yourself and those around you it’s okay to be broken and whole. It’s okay to go through a process and learn more about yourself, others and God along the way. It’s in that process where wounds turn to scars, victory happens, we regain our life in Christ and God
Read also: Your scars tell a story