When we were unloading our moving truck having just arrived in Bakersfield I moved a shelf inside the moving truck that happened to have another piece of furniture leaning on it. When I pulled the shelf out the other piece smacked me right by my right eye. I saw stars. Then I saw the blood. Standing in the midst of people I had either just met or had met in the interview process drops of blood rolled down my face. It was almost embarrassing but I could tell that they really cared about me they tended to me to make sure I was okay. Now when I look in the mirror and see that scar just over my right eye I think of those lovely people who made such an impact on my life.
The apostle Paul had his scars. Unlike my “moving scar” his scars were the direct result of persecution for gospel proclamation. He lists his sufferings as his “credentials” to the Corinthians. But his scars are much more than proof of his legitimacy as an apostle. They are more than that because what is more important than a resume are people. His scars were personal. His scars are remembrances of people he loved. For instance, pair Philippians 1 with Acts 16,
“3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” – Phil 1:3-6
“22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.” – Acts 16:22-24 (this happened in Philippi – Acts 16:12)
Did Paul have an incredible memory? He seems to remember so many people in his letters. Maybe part of his memory were the mnemonic device of his scars. Paul had visible reminders of those Philippians in his own body. When he saw the scars, he could think of them. Maybe this is one of the reasons (along with the teachings of Jesus on being blessed when persecuted) that Paul could rejoice in his sufferings because he knew what it all produced among people he dearly loved.
What scars do you have and who do they remind you of? Some scars challenge us because they remind us of evil. Maybe even those scars are a reminder of grace and forgiveness rather than bitterness and scorn. Jesus also had his scars and they are a reminder of what He has done for us.
Scars show our body has healed but often our minds and our souls have not. Maybe it is time for your scars to tell a new and better story. Not all scars are visible and I am talking about those scars as well. Our scars can make us bitter or they can make us better. Our memory of what happened when we got the scars won’t change but our attitude about them and how we leverage them toward spiritual growth and the advancement of the kingdom can be powerful. The scars of remembrance are powerful acts of grace that keep pulling our memory toward past trauma.