The Real Jesus: Part 3. Why We Keep Our Scars

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This is part 3 of a series leading up to Easter. It chronicles my spiritual journey these last several years as I’ve sought the touchable, real-to-me Jesus in the midst of my Unfixable Life.

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When life seems woefully unfixable, when it really will take a miracle to stitch it back up, when nothing is going as you expected and you feel utterly alone in your particular mess, know that there is Hope. There is Hope because there is Jesus and because of the cross.

Jesus, as Kindred Healer, comes to you when you’re bowed low beneath the shadow of the cross and He tenderly lifts your face to meet his gaze. He sees what a mess you are — the bleeding wound here, the twelve-inch scar there, the heart that has been broken a hundred times too many, the conscience that is seared over and over again with shame, the mind that is clouded with doubt or confused by deceit or rattled with dysfunction. He sees you in that seemingly unfixable state and He comes to your rescue by journeying with you. {from Part 2}

Not only is Jesus with you, He acknowledges your hurt, your anger, your not knowing what comes next. He has been tempted in every way and experienced the depth of human emotion in a way we can’t even fathom. He’s taken on all of your sin and mess and taken on all of the the sin and mess thrown at you or at the ones you love. He died with this sin and mess and then was raised to life without it. He was and is our substitute and our savior. And because of this tragic and glorious reality, we too can be saved from the power and penalty of sin and raised to new life. Not just in the eternal, seemingly ethereal sense, but in the everyday sense too.

We can hope when the world says give up and count your losses. We can persevere when the world says run back the other way, protect yourself, play it safe. We can forgive when the world says that’s it’s all about your rights.

God’s love, shown through Christ, expands our reality so that all is governed by the cross and what that really means for us today. No matter how far life seems to have flung itself away from “normal,” the cross stays right there in the center, bigger than ever. God’s love, shown through Christ, actually has the power to refine and reorient our emotions. God’s love, shown through Christ, turns us upside-down and inside-out and it will make no sense to most people but you wouldn’t have it any other way.

Ask me how I know.

As I have sought in the most raw and gritty sense to find the Real Jesus these last three years, He has met me exactly where I was. Often, I was in a raw and gritty place. Some days I was hanging on to hope and belief by the thinnest thread. Other days I was filled with worship. Sometimes I felt numb. Many days I was mired in a pit of disillusionment and pain, gripping tightly to the illusion of control I thought I had over my own life. Wherever I was, that’s where He met me, always with love, always without condemnation. But the sweetest thing to me was his acknowledgement of my pain, his understanding of the unfixable state I was in, the consolation I experienced simply by the awareness of his presence.

In my mind’s eye, my conversations with Jesus* went something like this:

Jesus, I cried, I am a mess. Life is a mess. Such a mess. When will I get better? When will I completely heal? When will life not feel like a tangle of loose ends?

Child, he replies, you’re right. This is bad. But don’t be afraid, I’m here. I, your Kindred Healer, am so very here. I feel your pain because I have been there. I have such empathy and compassion for you. Come, take my hand and let’s walk together. Our journey may feel long. Some of these wounds are going to need tending for a long time. But it’s going to be okay. You’re going to be okay. I walk this road with all my children and each one’s journey is different. Don’t look at them and compare. Fix your eyes on me. You will always need me and your awareness of this is key to the healing process. Look, you’re feeling a bit better already aren’t you, wounds and all?

And you are. You’re walking with the Kindred Healer and nothing has really changed except your company. Much like Aslan’s conversation with Susan as she’s weary from the journey, doubting everything, and gripped with fear. {From Prince Caspian}:

‘Susan.’ Susan made no answer but the others thought she was crying. ‘You have listened to fears, child,’ said Aslan. ‘Come, let me breathe on you. Forget them. Are you brave again?”

That’s what it was like. I was Susan. Each day I would wrestle with fear. But Jesus would breathe and on me and make me brave again so that I could continue with the journey.

But there was this lingering question. Jesus, I’d ask, how long before all of these unfixable, messy, painful things are gone?

Ah yes, He replies. The scars. You’ll keep those. But don’t fret. Here, I want to show you something. 

He stretches out his hands and you see them — scars.

See, I have them too. You’re in good company. Don’t resent the scars. They’re one of the ways you know I’m real. After my resurrection, one of my own disciples didn’t believe I could have risen from the dead. You’re human so it’s a normal thing to doubt. Thomas said, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails and place my finger into his side, I will never believe.” My scars showed Thomas that I am real and they proved what I had done for him. My scars remind you of the same truths.

I’m God so I could have come back without the scars. But in Our Father’s perfect, compassionate plan, He uses the scars. I am always about the will of the Father and as you continue to walk with me, your life will conform more and more to the will of the Father too. Here’s the really interesting things about scars. You’ll meet others and they’ll have scars a lot like yours. Just as I am your Kindred Healer, I send you out with my Spirit that infuses your story. Together, we provide encouragement and hope for the others. Scars are sacred. Don’t disdain them. 

This road we travel, it can be rough at times. And it’s also narrow — not many choose it. But you did and I am with you, always with you. I was forsaken on the cross and because of that, I’m able to promise that I will never leave or forsake you. Do you understand that? I was forsaken so you don’t have to be? The promise I gave to my disciples is the same promise I give to you: I am with you always, to the end of the age. When the path is especially steep, cling to these promises.

This Kindred Healer, He is Jesus. Yes, the one in the Bible. Yes, the One I was looking for. He has become so real and precious to me these last three years as I’ve prayed the same prayer over and over again, Jesus, make yourself real to me. 

As I’ve mentioned, his realness to me was not instantaneous, not even close, even though I prayed for that. Rather, it was a slow knowing, a knowing that encountered {and may continue to encounter} doubts and setbacks.

A knowing that gently pressed itself into my life through a season of deep rest, quiet, and solitude. A knowing that has come through counseling, needful books written by other struggling and scarred saints, through sermons and sacred fellowship, through prayer in my minivan after I drop kids off at school.

I have needed all of these means of grace and God has used each of them in beautiful, unique ways. But perhaps most importantly, the slow knowing has come through the study and comfort and power of Scripture. All of it. From the Old Testament to the New Testament and all the way to Amen.

His word — love letter to us, a story of us.

His word — the ultimate story of broken people, hating people, indifferent people, reckless people, hurting people. A story of victims, the oppressed, the sick, the dying, the fearful, failing, and faithless.

His word — a story of how He kept holding out His love and His perfect, protective wisdom even though these struggling, resistant people kept taking it and rejecting it over and over again. And He kept loving them over and over again, holding out his promises and Truth to each generation.

His Word — the story that begins with Jesus and ends with Jesus and points to Jesus page after page.

Do you see? The Unfixable Life is what is saving my life in both the epic and everyday ways because The Unfixable Life leads me to the Real Jesus.

May it lead you to Him too.

Resources

books

For the seeker: The Gospel of John, found in the New Testament of the Bible. If you’re curious about the Christian faith, start here. If you don’t have a Bible and would like one, let me know and I’ll mail one to you. Also, there are all sorts of free online Bibles. You can read John on your computer screen at home or even on a computer screen at the public library. Biblegateway.com or Biblehub.com are ones that I often use. {If you click on that Biblegateway link, I’ve got it cued up to the beginning of John.}

For the skeptic: The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Timothy Keller. Though I haven’t written a great deal about it on my blog, I have the heart of a skeptic and therefore a heart for skeptics. There is really no reason that I “should” believe in God, much less a Real Jesus. But I do and it is all grace. This book is a great resource for those who are reluctant, skeptical, or simply curious.

For the hurtingThe Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis. “The intellectual problem raised by human suffering, examined with sympathy and realism.” Shattered Dreams: God’s Unexpected Path to Joy by Dr. Larry Crabb. “Shattered dreams are never random. They are always a piece in a larger puzzle, a chapter in a larger story. The Holy Spirit uses the pain of shattered dreams to help us discover our desire for God, to help us begin dreaming the highest dream.”

For the “bedraggled, beat-up, and burnt-out”The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning. I’ve read this several times and it has greatly ministered to me. I really can’t recommend it enough.

For the one who is stuck and joy-less and struggling to give thanksOne Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp. Another one to read and re-read. Proof that yes, even in our darkest days, we can count the gifts. Gratitude changes everything.

For the one seeking the “essential message of Jesus”The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith by Tim Keller.

For the lover of storiesThe Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. These books “for children” have profoundly strengthened my faith and deepened my love for the Real Jesus.

For the child {and for the child’s parents who may be prone to cry every time he or she reads these stories}: The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name.

The Real Jesus. Part 1: The Unfixable Life {posted on Monday}

The Real Jesus. Part 2: When Wounds Take You So Low, You Can Only Look Up {posted on Wednesday}

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* About my “conversation” with Jesus

The passage above is an imagined conversation with Jesus based on His words and character as revealed in Scripture and made personal through the Holy Spirit. The passage is not in any way “inspired revelation” from God as in the Bible. That canon is closed. This is simply my own story of Jesus becoming real to me in the midst of this journey and put into conversational form, much like a novelist, artist, songwriter, poet or pastor use creative devices to personalize the truths of Scripture.

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Comments

  1. Kim says

    The hope I see in this is when I feel I have finally taken 2 steps forward, then 1 step back, Again!, is knowing you got better, over time, with Jesus by your side, holding your hand. I will too. My scars will never be looked at the same. I can not give up, because He won’t give up on me. Thank you.

      • Kim says

        Marian,
        I attended my first ever Good Friday service last night. We had the opportunity to come up and touch the cross if we wanted. Many people touched and prayed, then kissed it. When it was my turn, I could not help but bow down low to it. Such a touching and meaningful experience. I so needed that as well as your words this week. Have a blessed Easter. Kim

  2. jordan says

    How beautiful it’s been to get to see God answer your prayer, but He didn’t stop there. Not only did He make himself real to you, but He has made himself real THROUGH you. How blessed I am to see our beautiful Savior in you!!! Beautifully written. The Real Jesus…..nothing compares!

  3. Emily says

    My favorite post in this series! “He could’ve chosen to come back without the scars”…honestly never thought about that before and how powerful that is. Thank you so much for these healing words. Love you!

  4. Elizabeth says

    These posts are a breath of fresh air to me this week after Easter, and though I wish I’d read them last week, I see how much more they’re ministering to me now. I’m just in a funny place, survival mode in many ways. Your story is much-needed encouragement and motivation.

    We’ve owned The Ragamuffin Gospel for years, and I know you’ve mentioned it here before, but I have never read it. I’m going to, soon! And I’ll listen to that sermon series by Tim Keller. It’s been so encouraging to read about how you found hope and healing. Thank you for sharing so openly and honestly.

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