a tremor ripples through my soul.
it is either the sound of a stone rolling away
or the deep throaty laughter
He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”
—John, explaining what it took for Thomas to believe
I imagine the following conversation (or something like it) happening in the dawn before my birth.
An angel leans over and says, “See this? This is skin. I’m going to wrap it tightly around your body. It’ll protect you and cover you.”
“Skin? But why do I need it?”
“Look at you now, without it! Yuck. Imagine going out into the world like that!”
“Good point . . .”
“So, anyway, it’ll grow with you and then come off when it’s supposed to. But don’t take it off too early. That wouldn’t be too smart. And besides, it would hurt.”
“Hurt? What is hurt?”
“It’s something that covers the world like this skin will cover you. Don’t be afraid of it, but don’t seek it, either. Hurt is the greatest teacher of all, but sometimes the lesson comes too late.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Oh . . . well, what’s skin like?”
“Natural and comfortable and dry, better than Gore-Tex. And it’s sensitive too; it can feel everything from fire to ice, from smooth silk to rough wood. It doesn’t like to be out in the sun too long, though, ultraviolet light and all.”
“Never mind. . . . And your skin will want to touch and be touched.”
“Yes, the most wonderful thing skin can do is touch.”
“Oh. Anything else?”
“Yes. Skin can also scar.”
And then, before she could tell me what scars were, I was born so I could find out for myself.
One time when I was speaking at a church in Kentucky, I mentioned that the disciples recognized Jesus by his scars and that, just like him, we’ll have scars in heaven. One rather large woman looked a bit distressed and said, “You mean we won’t have perfect bodies in heaven?”
I didn’t really know what to say. I guess she assumed she’d look like a supermodel in heaven after spending an entire lifetime eating Twinkies here on earth. I thought about mentioning something about that to her as a helpful little dietary suggestion but decided not to.
Who’s to say perfect bodies, heavenly bodies, don’t have scars? Jesus had scars when he came back to life. Maybe our scars, our histories of life on this earth, are an essential part of the afterlife. If we can infer anything from the body of the risen Jesus, it seems our scars are the only thing we get to take with us into eternity.
Maybe it’s so that when we’ve been dead for ten billion years and those few moments we had back on earth seem like a dream, we’ll be able to say, “Yes, I really did live in that place of skid marks and scars. Yes, he really did come down and die in my place. Yes, I really did believe in him and he really did rise again. Yes, his love really did bring me here.”
Or, “Yes, I really did live in that place of skid marks and scars. Yes, he really did come down and die in my place. Yes, I really did scorn him and he really did rise again. Yes, my choices really did send me here.”
Jesus wasn’t ashamed of his scars. He didn’t apologize for them: “Oh, gee, guys, it’s good to see you. Sorry about these scars here. I know they look kinda gross, being fresh and all. But don’t worry, they’ll heal.” No, instead he showed them off like a first grader during show-and-tell. “They’re real! Go on, you can touch ’em. It won’t hurt!”
Thomas doubted that Jesus was alive. He wanted proof, so Jesus let him feel his scars. And then Thomas believed. “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed. Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who haven’t seen me and believe anyway.”
Believe. Believe. Just believe.
Ghosts don’t have scars you can touch. They don’t eat leftover fish. They don’t have feet. But a living Savior does. And a living Savior who walks through walls can walk through even the locked and barred chambers of a human heart.
That’s what happens every time someone believes.
Paul believed when a bright light blinded him and a voice from heaven stopped him cold in his tracks. Lydia believed when a few guys showed up at the river and told her about their friend who refused to stay dead. The treasurer of Ethiopia believed when Philip explained an ancient allegory about a lamb. More than three thousand Jews believed when Peter begged them to turn from their sins. God gave them each what they needed in order to believe.
When John saw the empty tomb, he believed. That’s what it took for him—an empty tomb. The couple walking on the road to Emma’s believed when the risen Jesus broke some bread and handed it to them. Thomas believed when he touched Jesus’s scars. I believed when a bunch of charismatic college students showed me what it looks like to be in love with Jesus.
Jesus will give you the evidence you need. He will do his part. He will whisper into your soul what needs to be said. Your part, the only thing he asks of you, is this: believe. As Jesus said, “This is what God wants you to do: Believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:29).
There, on his skin, is the evidence of how we treat our saviors, of how we act toward God—and how he reacts to us.
Scars and all, God wants to save you. Hopes and dreams and everything; mistakes and wounds and heartaches. All of you. Who you were and who you are. Twinkie-eater or granola-head. Jesus offers to save you body and soul and scars and all.
Believe the story and you’ll finally enter it for yourself. Life on this planet is only a preface to the real story God is waiting to tell us in eternity.
touching the unseen
you came back to life with fresh scars and open arms.
you arrive with a constant reminder of our world
pierced and etched upon your skin.
but the deepest scars didn’t come from the nails,
and because of that
the healing you offer isn’t just skin deep,
you can heal me all the way down to the bone.
down to the heart.
i’m ready to enter the tale,
let your tale enter me.