A scar on any part of your body is always a reminder of a particular event in your life. Depending on how gory that event in your life may have been, the scar reminds you of the what if. For me, there was one scary moment, as I lay on my back in a puddle of hot cooking oil that had fallen off of the nearby stove. What if the hot boiling cooking oil in the frying pan sitting on the stove had fallen in my eyes, or had fallen on my face? What if…?!?
It was during allergy season, and my allergies had gotten so bad that any one sneeze felt like I was about to pass out. I didn’t know what had happened, but I soon realized that I was on my back on the floor of our kitchen, lying in that hot cooking oil. I suffered second and third-degree burns at my back, and subsequently had to go through skin grafting, a process that has left a permanent scar on my right thigh. Every time I see the scar, I am reminded of such a near tragedy in my life, an experience which causes me to reflect on the what ifs that could have shaped or changed my life in a very significant way.
Some of us bear scars of a particular moment in our lives, or see them in the life of a loved one. That scar may have been as a result of a surgery - like mine - or an accident, a horrible relationship, an assault, or an illness on the one hand Or perhaps there is a joyous moment that has left that indelible imprint in your consciousness. Truthfully, in as much as a scar reminds us of the what ifs that surround a particular event, it also reassures us of the grace that has held us up, even when our scars tell of a horrific event. Such grace brings to mind the story of a little boy on whose hands were imprinted scars of a father who wouldn’t let go of him.
One hot afternoon, a little boy was swimming in the lake behind his house. As he swam, he didn't notice the alligator that was following him. His father, gardening from a distance, saw the alligator and yelled to his son to turn back. Too late! Just as the boy reached his dad, the alligator reached the boy. In an incredible tug-of-war the father grabbed his son's arms while the alligator snatched his legs. The alligator was determined to pull the boy underwater, but the father was too passionate and zealous to let go of his son. A farmer who was driving by heard the screaming, immediately leaped from his truck, and proceeded to shoot the reptile. Remarkably, the boy survived, but only after spending several weeks in the local hospital. He has, of course, become a local celebrity, and was interviewed by the local newspaper about his encounter with the alligator. He showed the reporter the terrible scars on his legs, and with an obvious pride on his face, the little boy added, "I've got great scars on my arms, too, because my dad held me and wouldn't let go!"
A freak accident left a scar on the legs and arms of this little boy. But there’s another kind of scar, which Paul refers to as the ‘marks’ on his body. Listen to what he tells the Galatians: “From now on, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.” Through his persecution, trials, beatings, shipwrecks, imprisonment, and more, Paul finally reached a point in his life where the marks - his scars - bore testimony of a life of sharing the unique message of the story of grace.
It is possible that some of the scars on you, or those in your mind - whether metaphorical or real - may symbolize abuse, assault, disappointment, pain or something more unimaginable perpetrated on you by someone you loved or a complete stranger.
Remember, our life is one that flows like a river, and as you may already know, rivers don’t flow backwards. It isn’t easy to forget the scars that have been left behind by another or an event, but it is possible to find healing and purpose in those scars.