On the index finger of my left hand are a number of scars. I appreciate them even though I don’t notice them much anymore. They are a reminder to me of why there is a warning sticker on a chain saw that says, “KEEP BOTH HANDS ON THE SAW”!
I have lived with these scars for nearly 30 years. Though they are thin and fading now (as well as less discernible among all the wrinkles on my old hands), they once were bright and red; there were years when my finger would not bend at the knuckle; there were occasions when a lost stitch would work its way out in an infection. And of course, before the stitches, there was a brief period when my finger looked like a forkful of Italian spaghetti.
My chain saw incident occurred shortly after I had resigned my first pastorate. I was still licking my wounds from attacks on my qualifications as a pastor as well as even assaults on my character. I had gone through some major crises in the church which were not of my own doing, as well as crises in my family. I was questioning my “call” to the ministry. I was “bleeding” internally (spiritually and emotionally). I had no idea what God was doing.
I received very little comfort or encouragement from most of my friends. Many seemed to have the attitude that I should just “get over it” and get on with life. But most wounds don’t just heal on demand. They take time. They take care. Gradually over time, both sets of wounds healed; the bleeding stopped; the infections cleared up; I was able to function again. I came to realize that my messed-up finger was sort of a metaphor or parable for my internal pains.
Most of us have been wounded at some time or times in our lives. Some wounds are self-inflicted (as my chain saw incident). Others are inflicted on us by others, some deliberately, some out of ignorance or indifference.
Many of us have been wounded by those closest to us, whether physically, emotionally or sexually. I know people who seem to never heal – they have been bleeding for years. I’ve known others who appear to have been healed only to have their wound or wounds reopened by some triggering incident. And there are some who seem to heal quickly with little evidence they’ve ever been wounded.
Even when wounds do heal, they often leave scars (whether physical or metaphorical). But there’s a big difference between a wound and a scar: a wound still bleeds; it is still liable to get infected; a scar is simply a marker where a wound used to be. In a sense, healing is (among other things) a turning of a wound into a scar. And our scars have reasons: they remind us of past sufferings; they teach us to be more careful next time; and, they are evidence of healing.
As with most spiritual and emotional aspects of our lives, there is no “easy button”; no formula for instant healing. But there are some biblical principles.
If the wound is our fault, we can confess it to God and accept His forgiveness. “If we confess our sins He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins” (1 John 1:9). Sometimes this may require the help of others. “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16).
If the wound has been inflicted by others, we can forgive them. We may not always be able to pronounce forgiveness, but we can by the inward power of the Spirit of God, take an attitude of forgiveness as did Jesus on the cross. “And Jesus was saying, ‘Father forgive them; for the do not know what they are doing’” (Luke 23:34). Or Stephen, as he was being stoned to death, “Bowing his knees he cried, ‘Lord do not charge this sin against them’” (Acts 7:60).
We can recognize in all of our pain the sovereign hand of God. “The Father of compassions and the God of all encouragement who encourages us in all our affliction that we may be able to encourage others” (2 Corinthians 1:3, 4). God has a purpose in our pain, even though we may not see it at first – or maybe ever.
Wounds happen. We can choose to pick at them and keep them bleeding, or we can seek with God’s help to let them turn into scars. We may never get rid of our own scars (even plastic surgery can’t heal most of them), but we can live with them and learn from them.
After all, Jesus, after rising from the dead, still had His scars. I believe He’ll have them through eternity.