(In 2017, I wrote this series for the 40 days prior to Easter to prepare our hearts and minds for the significance of Jesus’ resurrection. I’m reposting the series now for the 40 days after Easter to encourage us to follow through, living in the risen Savior and King.)
Back in the late 80s, I was taking a hospital ministry course in seminary. Each morning, we’d receive some instruction from our hospital Chaplain supervisor on specific things we might encounter. Then we’d go out as individuals to provide pastoral care to the patients. At the end of the day we’d all come together, share our experiences, discuss them for mutual learning, and receive any concluding feedback from the hospital Chaplain. And every two weeks we would rotate through a different part of the hospital: the ER, mother/baby unit, out-patient care, ICU, post-operations, oncology, etc.
I relished every day as an opportunity to learn and to serve, but one particular visit will always stand out in my memory.
As soon as I walked into the patient’s room, I saw him sitting in a chair in his hospital gown with his knees spread unusually far apart. I introduced myself and that I was here as part of a seminary course, learning and providing hospital ministry. He smiled and introduced himself rather loudly as he immediately began to pull his gown back toward his groin. “Would you like to see the scar from my prostate surgery?”
I wasn’t sure if he was serious or not, but I knew that I did not want to look at that part of his body – much less after such a surgery. So I smiled nervously, turned my head to the side, held up my hand to block any potential view and said “no thanks” laughing slightly. I did manage to continue into the room, make some small talk, and slip out after a few awkward minutes.
I don’t remember what we talked about…or even if he talked any more at all.
I think it’s fair to say that all of us want somebody to look at our scars: our physical wounds, our emotional scars, our tears in our relationships, our deep hurts that even we don’t understand. We know that if they see our woundedness and still stay with us, we’ve found a real friend. There’s nothing quite so rare and precious.
But the uglier the wound or the more times we’ve been rejected, the harder it can be to bare our soul. Looking at such ugly wounds can be much harder, too. Yet this type of soul-searching is exactly what we see the Lord doing from Genesis 1:1 throughout His story of seeking and saving His people.
The Lord looked at the formless, void, and dark world, and He came into that world – a completely unimpressive, even ugly world. And He still looks at the lives of His undeserving people and shines on them – not with some rude spotlight or curious searchlight, but with the light of His covenantal presence that consistently says to His undeserving people, “I have looked on your sin and brokenness, and I have come to love you. I will be your God, and you will be My people. You will know Me, and I will know you. And I will meet all of your needs to follow Me by faith for joy in My Son, Jesus.”
That level of intimacy is scary and yet invigorating. For we finally know that kind of love is the real deal.
It’s sometimes hard to let my wife look at the scars on my body, much less the scars on my soul. The physical wounds from my several surgeries don’t hurt anymore, unless I count the hurt that I fear if she were to draw her hand back with even mild disgust. But she hasn’t. Every day, she sees me and commits to me.
This is the love that each of us needs. The love God designed us for in Christ: to know and to be known, all the way down to the wounds and scars. That is love by grace in Christ Jesus. Anything less is others’ “like” of the few polished parts of our lives, and we can’t keep up that facade for very long.
I’m not saying that we need to allow everybody to look at every deep part of our heart. The Lord said, “Don’t cast your pearls before swine.” And, though your wounds may have come from very ugly things, your soul – even your scarred, wounded soul is precious to Jesus and will be to some of His people whom He has sent so that each of us may know and be known in true Love. (Galatians 4:6-9)