Friday, January 16, 2015

Wounds, Scars, and Stories

Erwin Raphael McManus
I have scars on my abdomen from some major surgeries I had when I was a teenager. Sometimes people ask me about them, and I wish I had a cool story to explain them—maybe a motorcycle accident or a knife fight. But, no. I have a genetic blood disorder that required the removal of my spleen. That’s it. That’s my story.

On page 77 of The Artisan Soul, Erwin McManus relates scars to stories. He writes:
“But there is another kind of uninteresting person. It is the person who has suffered, and that suffering is all they know. They are trapped in their pain; they wallow in their despair; they are all wounds and no scars. All they can talk about is their pain. Life is suffering, and the suffering does not make them empathetic. They have no room for the pain of others. Their pain fills their entire universe. They are not interested in your story; they are not interested in your wounds; they are not interested in your pain. They are interested in you only if you are interested in them. They become emotional transients, nomadic wanderers moving from one person to another as each person unwittingly feeds their self-absorption, at first not realizing they do not want to find a way through their pain but only to trap others in their own endless suffering. As uninteresting as the person who has never suffered may be, this person wins the prize. It’s hard to tell a great story if we remain in chapter one. 
Beyond despair their must always be hope; beyond betrayal there must be a story of forgiveness; beyond failure there must be a story of resilience. If the story ended at the cross, it might be a story worth telling, but that story could never give life. Only the Resurrection makes the Crucifixion what it is for all of us who are marked by the cross.”
I love the phrase, “they are all wounds and no scars.” I have never thought of a scar like that. A scar is a good thing because it tells the story of a wound that has healed.

But what about McManus’s words about people who refuse to let their wounds become scars: “It’s hard to tell a great story if we remain in chapter one”? Is that the essence of a good story—the process of wounds becoming scars?

It makes me think of the famous scene in John when the resurrected Jesus appears to the eleven and he shows them the wounds in his hands and in his sides. “The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord” (John 20:20 Jewish Annotated New Testament). His resurrected body still has the wounds. He will always evidence the cross.

This implies that we will carry our wounds around in glory. What that looks like I don’t know. The blind will see and the lame will leap for joy, but they will still have their wounds. And what does that look like for other kinds of wounds—the wounds of betrayal, abuse, loss, and shame? What will those wounds look like?

Maybe the wounds will become scars.

Scars tell a story. We wonder about pain and evil and why they are a part of God’s plan. Maybe this is the reason. Maybe we will carry our wounds in glory, but we will carry them as scars. When we see each other’s scars, we will be reminded of the world fallen from God and we will be reminded of redemption. Maybe the scars will be the way that the gospel continues to be proclaimed forever.

The scars on my abdomen are super lame. But they are part of my story and I embrace them. I have other “scars” that tell better stories. But maybe I don’t have to think of these scars of evidence of hurt, but of evidence of healing. Scars aren’t wounds. Scars are former wounds that have been healed. 

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