The very first scar that I ever received came as a gift from the chickenpox fairy. It's barely noticeable today, above my left eye on my forehead. This little indentation where an eager six-year-old picked at his chickenpox is a reminder that sometimes it is important to persevere through the discomfort; otherwise, you can make a bad situation worse.
Despite the multiple warnings from my mother and my father not to scratch, the urge was too great. If only I could have had the patience to persevere just a few more days! But instead, every time I look in the mirror, I can see the remnant of that mistake, as well as remember the lesson that scar brought: that patience is a virtue, and that often when we try to find that quick fix, it actually can make things much worse.
Now, a few years past six, my body is laden with lots of other scars. Some of my scars have incredible stories, and some of my scars chronicle many of the stupid things I have done, but no matter how I came to acquire the scar, like that first scar, each one has a lesson learned. But besides the life lessons that happened in the acquiring of the scars, each scar represents a past that is behind me and a hope for the future.
Recognizing that life moves on might have been one of the most important lessons I ever got from my scars. I remember when I was a teenager and I took my shirt off for the first time in front of friends, and they saw my very pink scar at the time. It was interesting to see the reactions people had: some expressed sympathy, some expressed disgust, others just genuine curiosity, but for me, most of the time I just forget about it. They have become so much a part of who I am, that I can't even think of life without them. When I do think of the scars, I think about how lucky I am that I have the scars from operations that allow me to live.
This all reminds me of the passage that Paul gives in Romans 12:9-21. In this pericope, while there are many themes and different areas to explore, the phrase that the spirit keeps stuck in the front of my mind is "hold fast to what is good." I think about that often, especially when things are not going so well.
Oftentimes in life, that's really hard to do, because in the midst of times that are turbulent, those times where we’re receiving our scars, it's easy to succumb to the pain. When we fall into the pain, evil in the form of persecution, doubt, and so much more can get its foot into our lives and take us to a place where we become a slave to it, rather than to life itself. This is all around us! And just like keeping from scratching the chickenpox, it's hard for us to hold on to what is good when we are not able to focus or see it.
When we find ourselves in those situations, we often lose hope and direction; sometimes we even lose our identity. It's important in those times for us to remember that everything is temporary, even our lives. We need to remember that our faith is permanent, and recognize that when we are living in our faith, we are able to make it through any turbulence, because when we are focused on our faith, we truly are focused on what is good.
This constant helps us to recognize that no evil, no temporary pain, nothing can hold us back in this world, because everything that holds us back in this world is bound to only this world.
This is what my scars remind me; that no matter what I went through to get those scars, I was able to overcome that and continue to live, and to live well.
Paul keeps telling us that we need to live in this world and not be grounded in this world, but to be grounded in our faith in God. When we are grounded in our faith in God, we can make it through whatever this world can throw at us. Even when we take on scars, and even when we go through painful times, there is a light at the end where we can find the grace and the glory, holding fast to what is good.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen