When I was young and a member of the 4-H club and Future Farmers of America, I decided to build a chicken coop. Due to my deficient carpenter skills, I sawed through the thumbnail and skin of my left thumb. For a long time, there was a noticeable scar and I could point to it and tell my chicken coop story. But now it is gone. and I have no physical evidence to show.
The apostle Thomas is known as “the doubter” because he was unsure of the resurrection of Jesus so he wanted to see the scars on his hands and his side. He wanted physical evidence before he would believe that Jesus had risen from the dead (John 20:25).
Recently I was listening and watching my son expound on this passage at his church (online of course) in Melbourne, Australia. He briefly told of two large vertical scars on his left forearm, the result of an accident in Papua New Guinea years ago. “If I told you the story,” he said, “you might find it hard to believe, but If I showed you the scars, you would have to take the story seriously.” The scars were the proof of the accident. The story, if described in gory detail, would tell of “donor plates,” complications from the PNG operation, surgery later in Australia with a bone graft, eventual healing, and the resulting scars are hideous. He has the evidence engraved on his forearm.
There are also scars that are not physical, and we are reading about them from the coronavirus pandemic. They are not just the physical, but also emotional, social, and economic. A COVID-19 death leaves a “scar” in the family when a member of the family dies and only memories remain. We can look at a picture of the person, but it is like looking at a scar because the picture reminds us of an individual we knew but is now gone.
There are terrible scars in our world: those of genocide, ethnocide, famine, alcoholism, war and post-traumatic stress, and the list goes on. Great scars where once there were thriving social groups and communities, men and women who had hopes of a happy life.
Some of us have particular physical scars: I have two indentations, where drainage tubes were inserted when my appendix burst when I was about 10 years of age. I also have a scar on the back of my left cheek from sledding. It happened when I inadvertently tried to go through a barbwire fence. However, behind—actually underneath—every scar is a story, usually representing something that was traumatic at the time, although later we may make them into enjoyable (and hopefully, believable) tales.
I probably would have been like Thomas, so I can’t blame him—I would have wanted evidence. However, once Thomas was convinced, he went on to accomplish great things.
It takes a while for a scar to form: the healing process takes several days or weeks. The scars in Jesus hands and on his sides would have been fresh and there were no sutures to close the wounds. Thomas may put his hand on a healing wound, with scar tissue still forming. It might not have been a very pleasant experience.
We are going through a scarring process with COVID-19 and it seems to be taking a long time for the disease to heal. New cases keep cropping up and some people die, leaving a void, a different kind of scar.
We don’t make a wound heal by continually examining it, or by picking at the scab that is forming. The body wants to heal and so do most communities and societies. However, we want matters to hurry up so we can “get on with it” and “get back to normal.” It will be a new and different kind of “normal” with scars to remind us of what it was like.
Following a physical wound and its healing, we should be able to use that part of the body again. But not always, we may have crippled ourselves or have continuing pain. Similarly, we need to be realistic and know that things are different now and the coronavirus pain may linger on. The pandemic will end, but the scars will be there. They can remind us of the disease, but also of God’s mercy and the body’s healing power.
Sheltering in Place
Karl and Joice Franklin