I have a scar on my right middle finger.
It is not painful, but the receiving of it was; I was slicing apples on a mandoline slicer, just pushing the apple over the razor sharp blade and back in a sweet fluid motion. I was also utterly ignoring the directions that expressed in no uncertain terms that the slicer was “only” to be used with the attached protective shield while slicing.
Protective shields, that’s for amateurs…right?
That was my arrogant contention until, with one sweet fluid motion, I sliced off a thin strip of apple and the top of my middle finger. The next fluid motion was grabbing a dish towel to cover my finger as I lifted it over my head, simultaneously opening the cupboard door under the sink with my left hand, and moving the mandoline slicer from the counter to the trash.
I waited patiently with my hand over my head for over 15 minutes, and when I lowered it over the sink and took off the increasing wet dishtowel, the cut was not only still bleeding, but dripping blood. So, off to the emergency room to learn my lesson. I was not overly concerned until the physician’s assistant asked me if I had saved the tip to reattach.
“I didn’t know there was a tip to be saved,” I said.
“Oh yeah,” she said, “you did a good job on this one.”
By this time the shock had passed and the painful throbbing had begun, which was not made any better by the injection I received on the tip of my finger in preparation for cauterization. She put the arc welding torch to my fingertip and we discovered together that the pain-deadening injection had not quite done its job yet.
That was not pleasant.
After a bit more time, and another injection, the deed was done; the bleeding stopped and my wound was properly bandaged. It took some time for the fingertip to heal, and then to get feeling back, but the body repairs. To this day, I have less sensitivity in that fingertip, it is flatter than the other nine digits, and it has a scar.
It is not the only scar I have, I have scars on my legs and arms and hands, the result of long-forgotten injuries over the years. I have a scar on my forehead where a garage door was dropped on me, but that one only makes me smile.
Because the body repairs its wounds with fibrous tissue instead of the usual skin cells, we have scars, the lingering reminders of our wounds. We may find them unsightly, or even ugly, but they are necessary. They are needed not only in the healing process, but also for the strengthening of a weakened part of the body.
They are necessary as reminders of the wounds of our past. In this, the scars themselves proclaim that we have been cut, that we have bled. They remind us we are not as indestructible as we like to think we are, physically, emotionally or spiritually; a certain level of gentleness is important when dealing with ourselves.
They are reminders that others have suffered as well. We may not see their scars, but we can be certain they are there. We may not know how they have been cut, or how they bled, but each person you meet has; a certain level of compassion is important when dealing with others.
Our scars are challenges that demand we learn from our wounds. The wounds may have healed, but the effects remain. As those redeemed by the gift of the Lord’s Cross and Resurrection, we are not given the luxury of presuming that being healed means we can go back to the way things were before, we are not the same as we were, physically, emotionally or spiritually.
The wounding of our lives needs to be healed, but healing is never a going backwards, it is always about becoming a new creation, different, stronger, holier and scarred. Reconciliation, for us, is about growth. If we think that being forgiven is simply a washing away of sin and then we can go back to the way we were before, we need to look at our scars and remember our wounds.
As the People of God, we are being prepared these Lenten days to enter into the deep mystery of the Lord’s dying and rising. He stands before us and calls to us in love, His hands open. It is an ancient and beautiful tradition of our faith that those hands have wounds, not scars.
Wounds to remind us, when we come to Him, we will never be what we once were.