Reflection of the Week - 20th June 2023

By Nadia Bolz-Weber

Posted in Faith

I’ve been thinking about scars a lot this week. And how much of my life I spent trying to hide mine. I would use concealer on the scars on my face from all the surgeries I had as a kid. Most of my torso is covered in stretch marks from gaining 70 whole pounds when I was pregnant. So, two-piece swimsuits were not my friend. And I always thought that the scar on my knee was gross– the one I got before getting clean and sober when I was drunk and thought riding my motorcycle on icy streets was a really smart thing to do on a Tuesday in February.

And those are just the scars I have on the outside, if you know what I mean.

I thought of this all week when reading this story about Jesus appearing to his disciples. Because what I realised is I find it comforting that his resurrection did not erase the marks of having lived his life or even having endured his death.

I find it comforting that when Jesus rose from the dead, he was recognisable by his scars.

Jesus came and stood among his disciples and said peace be with you, then he didn’t try and hide the mark from the spear on his side. He didn’t wear gloves to conceal his scars. Jesus came and stood among his disciples and said peace be with you then he showed them his hands and his side.

He knew that he would be known by his wounds.

And isn’t that true for us as well? We can only really know and be known when we show our scars. I never really feel a connection to someone until they have shared with me the lumpy, broken, petty, parts of themselves. I may be inspired by the virtue and accomplishments of others, but I only feel less alone when someone shares their failures with me, the parts of themselves that have been hurt. As Beyonce says, show me your scars and I won’t walk away.

Scars are like the metabolised remains of our wounds. And as you know, they can be physical and emotional. If your mum left when you were young, you will always be someone whose mum left when you were young. There will always be a mark on you in the place that was hurt by that loss.

We carry all of it with us in some form or another. We are walking embodiments of our entire story. The scars from that aren’t optional, but the shame is.

Being an Easter people — a people of resurrection — is not to be cleansed from all harm, and it is not to have all the bad things that we have done or that have happened to us erased. Resurrection is not about rewriting our past or forgetting what happened. I wish that’s how it worked but it just isn’t. Because (as many preachers before me have said) resurrection is not reversal.

The things that happened to Jesus’ body — the state sanctioned violence, the flogging, the crucifixion — remained even after he defeated death and rose from the grave. He still bore the marks of that pain, but the pain was not what defined him.

And if you think about it, his resurrection tracks with the messiness of the rest of the ministry. Jesus went about the countryside turning water to wine, eating with all the wrong people, casting out demons, angering the religious establishment. He touched the unclean and used spit and dirt to heal the blind and said crazy things like ‘the first shall be last and the last shall be first,’ and ‘sell all you have and give it to the poor and pray for those who persecute you.’ (Or as we like to say here, pray for those who prosecute you).

If what we see in Jesus is God’s own self revealed, then what we are dealing with here is a God who is very different than how I would be if I were God. In Jesus we see a God who would rather die than be in the sin accounting business anymore. A God who does not lift a finger to condemn those who crucified him but went to the depths of Hell rather than be separated even from his betrayers. A God unafraid to get his hands dirty for the ones he loves. This is the God who raised Jesus from the grave — still wounded and who chose a woman with a past to tell everyone else about it.

I guess what I am saying is don’t believe the paintings of the resurrection — where Jesus is all cleaned up and shiny, like nothing bad really happened.

If you think that’s what resurrection looks like, if you think it looks like perfection and therefore it is out of reach, if you think the only sign of God bringing new life is the absence of pain or failure and therefore you haven’t experienced it, you might be wrong.

That’s the point.

Our scars and our sorrow will always be part of our story, but they will never be the conclusion of our story. Which means that even when you feel trapped in your pain, trapped in your past, trapped in your own story like it is itself a tomb, know this — that there is no stone that God cannot roll away.

Source

Bolz-Weber, Nadia, ‘Resurrection Is Messy,’ The Corners by Nadia Bolz-Weber, 9th April, 2023, thecorners.substack.com/p/resurrection-is-messy.

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