Every Scar Has a Story
In December of 2009 I hit a bump in my faith journey. In February of 2011, I hit a wall.
The bump was due to intentional decisions my family made to engage our new city with purpose and passion. Since moving to Memphis in 2008, this city has taught us so much about Jesus and His kingdom, yet there have been moments when pain, heartbreak, and despair have left me asking questions about God…big questions about God.
You see, my faith crisis wasn’t about whether God exists or not. My crisis was about God’s intervention. When does God choose to intervene and when does He keep His hands off? Standing at Babyland (a cemetery for newborns whose family’s can’t afford proper barriers) over silver discs with numbers on them signifying where infants have been buried in little wooden boxes will cause you to ask those kind of questions. What is God up to in the world?
In 2011, when my sister tragically died, the bump became a wall. And there I was a pastor, standing up week in and week out, fighting whether I was going to succumb to forms of Deism or if I was going to remain committed to leaning into a God who is fully present in the here and now
With Lent approaching in 2011, I committed to journaling for thirty minutes, at least five days a week. I needed space where I could simply ask questions and wrestle with God. Looking back, I didn’t need my questions answered as much as I needed to know there was a God willing to get down low in order to struggle with me. And He did.
One day while writing, it hit me that my experiences in life have left me a wounded and scarred man. I began writing about that one word—scars. I sensed as if God said, “You may be wounded and scarred, but welcome to a wounded and scarred world.”
A few things became clear to me about God, the world, pain, and the local church. One, a scar is a healed wound. If we keep picking at wounds, they are unable to properly heal. They remain vulnerable to irritation and infection. Whether they are physical, emotional, psychological, or social, wounds are nurtured into scars.
Two, every scar has a story. There is not a scar we bear that doesn’t have a story that goes along with it. Scars don’t surprise people. They don’t appear out of nowhere. They come to us through lived experiences.
Thirdly, we live in a culture that spends billions of dollars trying to cover up scars.
But that’s not the way it has always been. Scars haven’t always been something to be avoided. In fact, the Jesus-story tells us that scars are stories meant to be redeemed.
I think the local church is sometimes at its best when we don’t suppress scar-filled stories, but rather we provide space for these stories to be told. This isn’t for people to wallow in the misery of physical or emotional pain, but to point to the beauty of how God joins us as we walk through it.
After all, when Jesus was raised from the dead, His scars remained, because they helped tell a story that is still capturing the world.
At the time when I was writing, I didn’t know my journals would turn into a book; and honestly, my heart didn’t need a published work, but a journey of learning to believe that Jesus entered into our world, and He still does.
And because of that, maybe a scar-filled church is exactly what this world needs.
Josh Ross is the Lead Minister at the Sycamore View Church in Memphis, TN. He is author of Scarred Faith (2013) and co-author with Jonathan Storment of Jesus Throws the Best Parties (2015 WaterBrook). You can follow him on twitter here: @joshualouisross.