When I was growing up I thought it was normal to see doctors, have surgery, and then repeat it in a year or two. On my legs I carry the scars of a few of those surgeries. Years have passed and I don’t notice them too much, but there are times when I look and remember those long summer days in casts—once, up to my knees and another time, up to my hips—eight weeks at a time. I remember the dreaded itching, and sticking whatever I could down into the cast to scratch those itches that were so maddening. There was a rusty coat hanger that did the trick, which probably wasn’t the most sanitary. Luckily, I didn’t get an infection in my incisions.
I have accumulated many more surgery scars since then, but thankfully those scars are unseen. I’ve often been asked, regarding the scars on my legs, “Wow, what happened?” I go on to explain that as a child, I had two orthopedic surgeries on my legs. One kept me from being crippled for life, and the other straightened my severely bowed legs. Would I prefer not to have the scars? Of course. But there’s a gratefulness that swells in my heart every time I tell the story of my scars.
If the veil that covers our hearts was pulled back and everyone was allowed to see the scars that cover it, I’m sure we’d be speechless, humbled, and thankful for the scars we’ve been entrusted to carry through this life.
I remember as a child asking my Daddy about a long scar he had that ran along the back of his arm. Daddy told me he’d broken it during his senior year at football practice. The doctor set it wrong and he had to have surgery to repair it. Sadly, that ended his football career. He was planning to go play for UTK. Football was his life, and he was devastated when he realized his dream would never come true. Daddy would then smile and say, “But God had other plans.” He would eventually go into the United States Air Force where he’d meet a true Christian, and that encounter would lead him to Jesus. He finished his tour of duty, came home to finish his Bachelors Degree, and headed to Germany where he served 49 years until the Lord called him Home. Daddy carried a scar on his arm, but his heart carried the message of Jesus’ love to so many in Germany and Eastern Europe. If you asked Daddy whether it was worth the pain and surgery, he’d reply with his life’s verses in Isaiah 61:1-3:
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.
I once read, “Scars tell stories of pain—and redemption. Our brokenness provides a pedestal for the display of God’s beauty.” We all have scars; things or circumstances that forever changed our lives. Jesus had scars, and it was because of those scars that the disciples, when they saw them, knew He was their risen Lord. Remember, He told Thomas, “Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.” The fact that Jesus was standing in their midst and showing them his scars was a visible sign of His salvation.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.” I don’t know about you, but I’ve done a lot of reflection during this COVID-19 quarantine. I thought about painful scars that haven’t begun to heal in my heart. Hurtful scars that I know God was using to move us as a family to a new area of service. Sometimes, God uses hurtful scars to move you because He knows you’d never go otherwise. Although, when He uses circumstances, people, and deeds that are less than honorable to move you, it hurts; and I guess that’s why these scars were particularly painful. Growing up on the mission field and being a missionary kid, you see a lot. Men who take their authority and use it for self-promotion rather than godliness; people turned away from attending church because they didn’t have the right clothing; those who needed their wounds bandaged, but instead received rejection.
Recently, I was privileged to watch a dear family walk with honor and integrity in the midst of a silent, demeaning coup attempt. I say “privileged” because I was strengthened and encouraged in the Lord by their devotion to God, His plan, and the truth. I seriously had to go to the roots of my faith and remember who God is and who I am in Him. You expect the world to hurt you, but the wounds of Christian brothers and sisters are far more painful in the healing process.
My heart clings to the knowledge that one day God will right the wrong. He knows the intents of their hearts, and He’s the judge. I’d rather leave it in His court than man’s or my own. Believe me: this isn’t easy. It’s a daily, “Lord, you deal with them,” situation.
I know the scars will heal and I know, like my Daddy always said, “that He may be glorified!” I hold to my earthly Daddy’s words and those of my heavenly Father,
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” II Corinthians 5:10
There is beauty in our broken and painful stories. I don’t know what the beauty of these scars is yet, but I know the One who allowed them and I trust Him. What about you? What are your scars? Miscarriages? Divorce? Betrayal? Abuse? The list is endless. Remember, we live in a world of scared people. People who need you to be their reminder that God loves them more than they could ever imagine, and He will take their scars and turn them into beautiful reminders of His love, sacrifice, and plan for their lives. Be the one who begins to help heal their wounds and turn them into scars that they too can say, like my Daddy, “That He May Be Glorified!”