While studying at my desk a few days ago, my attention was drawn to several scars on my left hand.  I have carried most of them with me for years.  The end of my left thumb is mangled and scarred from nearly severing it in a car door when I was 5 years old.  Though re-attached with stitches and wires, it is different in appearance and a bit shorter than my other thumb.  I was nearly grown before I stopped glancing at my thumbs to distinguish “left” from “right”!  The base of my middle finger bears scars made by the teeth of my dog, Snoopy, who often got carried away when we wrestled and played.  Near the end of the same finger is a long, thin scar from a knife wound that I inflicted on myself during my first attempt to get a coconut out of its shell.  My legs look like a historical, injury road map of my life: bicycle wrecks, falls on outdoor basketball courts, a Weed Eater mishap, etc.  Not so precious memories!

Scars are reminders of past pain.  The wounds which caused them no longer hurt, and the discomfort no longer distracts me or makes me wince.  Still, the scars serve as evidence of past experiences from which I learned some valuable lessons.  Looking at them can immediately take me back to South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Liberia, and Australia.  I can recall the faces and the names of those who were present at the time of the injuries and who may have even contributed to them! 

Not all scars are physical.  Some are emotional.  Some are relational.  Some are spiritual.  Some are self-inflicted.  Some exist as a result of the hurtful words and actions of others.  As time passes, the pain decreases and eventually disappears.  But, the scars remain to remind us and teach us; not to make us bitter, but to make us better.

The apostle Paul stated that he bore on his body the brand-marks of Jesus (Galatians 6:17).  These marks were physical scars and reminders of being lashed with whips, beaten with rods, pummeled with stones, etc.  He also carried emotional scars inflicted by those who doubted his sincerity, questioned and rejected his apostolic authority, and misrepresented his teaching.  I have no doubt that Paul forgave those who caused his visible and invisible wounds, but the scars remained.

I own my scars.  I don’t view them as blemishes of which I need to be ashamed.  They are evidence that I have lived.  They are evidence that I have learned.  They are evidence that I have survived.