Finding Grace and Growth in Glorified Scars John 20:19-31

When I see someone with an interesting scar, I’m always curious to know its story. Although it’d be impolite to ask, I always hope it will come up in conversation. What event led to the stitches on the knee, what adventure resulted in the scar on the forehead, and what caused the mark on the arm? Something about scars makes us want to hear the story behind them. Sometimes, it’s a story of overcoming hardships. Other times, it’s a painful reminder of a past hurt. Nevertheless, there’s always a story to be told.

After his resurrection, Jesus had the option to return without the scars on his body but chose not to do so. Instead, he kept his scars and showed himself to the disciples this way. He chose to return to them with his scarred yet glorified body rather than being restored to his pre-death state and shining with glory.

The authors of the gospel stories had the option to leave out the ugly parts of the events they documented, yet they chose to include them, providing a complete and honest account. Following the events of the past week and the traumatic experience of witnessing their beloved teacher’s death, the disciples were left with emotional scars of their own. The disciples were afraid and in hiding, concerned that the people who executed Jesus would come after them next.

They may also have been hiding in fear of Jesus. They had good reason to hide. They fell asleep when he needed them, denied him, deserted him at the cross, and gave in to fear. Still, Jesus came, and he said, “Peace be with you.” Don’t fret, he said. Don’t get stuck in the past. Don’t hide the scars.

Thomas spoke to us about doubt, which we all have, and the power of not giving up. He missed the big reveal when Jesus came the first time. Instead of saying, “Oh well,” and moving on, Thomas asked what the other disciples got. He wanted to see for himself.

For the disciples, Jesus’ death was also a kind of death for them. They had to accept that Jesus wasn’t exactly the Messiah they expected. His death made it real. This was no conquering hero Messiah, not a war leader; this was the kind of teacher who reveals grace with his scars, not his perfection. This is the kind of teacher who is about service, not triumph.

We have this moment all the time when we buckle down to the real job we have instead of waiting for the perfect one or making our peace with the real person we married, instead of the Hallmark card version of love, when we go to college we can afford, instead of the one that looked so perfect on tour, when we decide to show up for our real lives, instead of waiting until we have money, get braces, lose fifteen pounds, move into our dream house, and so on.

Thomas was ready. He was prepared to see the scarred Jesus instead of the perfect one. And he invites us to jump into our own imperfect, broken, battered lives in the same way. The one with the scars is also the one with the ability to heal.

Rachel Macy Stafford shared a story about her teaching job, where she met one of her most impactful students. He was a 10-year-old boy, Kyle, born drug addicted, with an Individualized Education Plan thicker than an encyclopedia — a boy with permanent scars along the side of his left arm from a beating with an extension cord when he was three, with a tough past, struggling in school. Teaching was a challenging job for Rachel, who had to work far away from her home. She had to handle a classroom full of children with special needs, learning difficulties, and challenging behavior. Although Rachel put in all her efforts, the first few months were tough, with tears streaming down her face every day.

One morning, the teachers arranged a special outing for their students. Kyle had not earned the privilege and became upset. He started screaming, cursing, spitting, and swinging at anything that came within his striking distance. In a fit of rage, he did something he had done before at all his other schools, at home, and even once at a juvenile detention center - he ran out into the traffic in front of the school. Rachel ran after him, but Kyle was fast. Despite the danger, Rachel chased after him to protect him from harm. Eventually, with the help of the school principal and a police officer, Kyle returned.

As weeks passed, he was glued to my side, complying with instructions, attempting to do his work, and occasionally smiling. For a child with severe attachment issues, it was quite amazing that he was developing a bond with me. One day, on the way to art class, Kyle unexpectedly grasped my hand. It was unusual for a boy his age and size to hold his teacher’s hand, but I knew I must act like it was the most normal thing in the world. I simply relished the moment — an unimaginable breakthrough from the child whose file bore the words: “Unable to express love or maintain a loving relationship with another human being.”

Reflecting on this experience, Rachel realized the power of simply being present for someone in need. When she expressed her feelings of failure to a speech therapist, the therapist reassured her that what made a difference was simply chasing after Kyle, something no one had done before.

The power to heal is often held by those who have scars. The people who have experienced hardships and have scars often become our greatest teachers. Our own scars can also become our source of wisdom. Our imperfections often make us uniquely special and the gift we have to give. Our bumps, bruises, scars, and hurts are where grace shows up. Even in the midst of our struggles and pain, grace can still show up in unexpected ways. We often believe that we make it through life despite our scars, but perhaps because of them, we can learn and grow. It’s also common to think that we need faith despite our doubts, when in reality, it may be because of our doubts that we learn to have faith. Grace shows up in the broken places. Glory shows up with the scars. This is our story, the story of our own scars.

Pray with me: Healing God, may the light of your grace heal our deepest wounds, sealing them with gold. Let our scars strengthen us, our imperfections beautify us, and our growth embolden us, leading us to find peace in the divine whispers of your healing and new beginnings. Amen.

By Rev. Kay Dubuisson





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