Have you read Lauren’s post about scar stories? If not, you should. I enjoyed it, because I like hearing scar stories. That said, I tend to do more listening than telling when scar stories happen.

See, I don’t have any really impressive scars. I have the slightest of white marks on my left hand from a scar that’s almost as old as I am (but it is sort of neat, because it coincides with my earliest childhood memory). I have the faintest outline remaining from a lost fight with the sidewalk near my senior-year duplex on Okemos. I’m clumsy and I bruise easily, but those are marks that fade sooner or later. For the most part, I’m relatively unmarked.

I was a very careful child. And youth. And young adult. I was (and still am, for the most part) well behaved and mild-mannered. I preferred to stay in and read. I didn’t engage in risk-taking behaviors. I was probably not the most fun babysitter, and I don’t think I’d have made an especially great camp counselor.

And there’s something appealing about that idea of going through life unscathed, unmarked. Avoiding the hurt and grit and remaining clean and pure and spotless. Dodging the scars, seen and unseen. The thing is, though, that’s not how life works—and thank goodness. Scars are the evidence of life—each one comes with a story, and an abundance of stories is, arguably, one of the best evidences of a life well lived.

Jacob-Wrestles-with-GodThink about the story of Jacob wrestling (with God? an angel? who really knows?)—he wrestles all night, and finally his hip is touched and he winds up with a limp. He also receives a blessing, but the blessing doesn’t take away the limp. He goes through the rest of his life marked in that way.

It’s not just Jacob, though—scars are woven into the Christian story, for even the resurrected Christ, God incarnate dead-and-raised, kept the marks of his wounds. In John we read how “Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side.” And then he repeats it for our favorite doubter: “Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’”

I’m pretty sure after Jesus rose from the dead and all, he could’ve gotten rid of his scars if he’d wanted to—but he didn’t, and so we know a wounded Christ, a Christ with the marks of a story so much greater than ours.

A couple of years ago, I got tattoos. They’re incredible tiny and barely noticeable—honestly, I forget about them most of the time, even though they’re easily visible, a small, black cross on each wrist. I’d hesitated about getting tattoos, because it’s something that can’t be undone (at least, not easily or cheaply). I could (and did) end up more or less marked for life—which, as I said, is not really typical of my day-to-day M.O. Part of the reason I got these tattoos was that doing so involved a deliberate act that serves as a helpful reminder to me that no one gets through life unmarked. Some marks are visible—like scars and tattoos—and others are not, but every single one of us has them. They’re what make us human, what mark our stories.

A sacrament in the Christian Church is typically defined as “an outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual grace.” Sacraments are the Eucharist and baptism—and, depending on your persuasion, confirmation, reconciliation, matrimony, holy orders, unction…and very possibly coffee (ha ha, church joke). But really anything in life can take on a sacramental nature, and who’s to say our scars are not, very often, outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace? Maybe the grace that comes from the stories we live is too great to be always held inside, and so it works its way out through cracks and lines and indelible marks.

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