The Good News of Scars

Reading Craig Barnes’ The Pastor as Minor Poet, and reflecting on Gregory the Great’s Pastoral Rule, I collapsed some thing said by each to become something neither said, but I'm always glad when authors make me sit down and think.

Along the line of St. Paul’s reasoning, Gregory writes of the wounds that we bear as good and humbling for us, creating and maintaining dependence, and Barnes discusses what he calls the “attractiveness of a scarred soul.” Barnes argues that the still bleeding wounds are often overwhelming and unhelpful (and ultimately repelling) to the congregation. In my own thoughts around this, I've called this a "therapeutic pulpit," those places you get the sense that the preacher isn't standing up to address God's people as much as he is lying down on a couch for catharsis. It's less proclaiming event, and much more therapy session, except that the congregation is not paid by the hour to listen and take notes. But, I digress...again. When Barnes discusses the scarred soul, he writes that scars are attractive, in so far as they not only humanize and make the pastor relatable, but they show that the word preached has been at work on the preacher as well.

In my own reflections around these ideas and images, scars add a humanizing texture, but they do far more than that. Scars preach an additional feature of the gospel that needs highlighting for both the pastor and congregation. Scars don't come for every wound, only the serious and deep ones. And they provide more than just the evidence that these deep and serious wounds occurred. Scars exist only after serious and deep wounds are seriously, deeply, and thoroughly healed. Scars are the testifying trophies. They tell us that grace and healing more serious than our wounds. Scars last longer than the wound. Many become permanent reminders that grace was sufficient not only to stop the bleeding in the wounded season, but grace regenerates with greater strength than was there before.

When we see each other's scars, we do see important evidence that we share pain & history. When we see each other's scars, we're reminded that God's love for us is stronger and more permanent than the thorns of the curse. Scarred souls aren't naïve, but they do hope.