Two weeks ago I cut my finger on some broken glass. The cut was pretty deep, so I went to Urgent Care where I had to have three stitches put in. I have been watching the cut closely, marveling at the healing process that is occurring right before my eyes. As I watch I wonder: What exactly is my body doing to heal this wound? And: How does my body know what to do when I injure it? I certainly never taught it what to do.
The amazing truth is that the body has a built in repair mechanism. After skin or tissue is wounded, the body releases collagen to mend the damage. Collagen (a protein) reattaches the damaged skin. It also prevents blood from going out and bacteria from coming in. As the wound heals, it often forms a temporary crust (a scab) to protect the healing that is going on beneath it. When the healing is somewhat complete, the scab falls off and, depending on the severity of the wound, a scar appears.
Scars too are interesting. A scar is not the same as skin. Scar tissue, unlike skin, has no hair follicles or sweat glands. It is also less elastic than skin. Scars that occur in younger and tighter skin tend to heal less well. Older skin tends to heal better. (Finally, an advantage to getting older!) I’m including a short video at the end of today’s reflection that illustrates this healing process in clear, simple language. You might find it as interesting as I did.
Today I suggest you reflect on some of the physical scars you carry with you. I’m assuming most of you have some—especially from childhood. Where are your scars? How big or small are they? Do you remember how you got them? I, for example, have four scars on my left knee and leg. I remember distinctly how I got them: I was trying to ride with no hands on my new 24” powder blue bicycle. I was riding on our country road when I let go of both hands and promptly went crashing onto the side of the road. I remember hobbling home where my mother cleaned me up. I probably should have had stitches, but back in those days we seldom went to an emergency room when we got injured.
The scars recall a painful incident, yes. But they also recall that beautiful blue bike I got for my birthday. As the youngest child, I was used to getting hand-me-downs—clothes, ice-skates, and bikes. But on this particular birthday, my Dad took me to the store where I got to pick out a NEW bike—just for me! So the scars recall my parents’ love and how special that love made me feel.
When Jesus rose from the dead, his body still bore the wounds of the crucifixion. In fact, it was his scars that convinced Thomas that Jesus was really Jesus. But, like Jesus, we bear more than physical scars; we also bear psychological and spiritual scars. Broken
relationships, physical or psychological abuse, bitter disappointments, serious illness, the loss of a loved one, a significant failure, the daily struggle to do the right thing—all can leave us with internal scars. But if our physical body has a repair mechanism, might not our psyche and spirit have one too? In both instances, we might need time and help to facilitate the healing process. A doctor can stitch up a physical wound. A spiritual director, counselor, or good friend can help us to heal after significant trauma.
Someone has said, when we die, God will say to us, “Show me your scars.” God will be happy to see them. For our scars will show that we found something worth fighting for, something worth caring about, and something worth risking injury for. When we humbly show God our scars—especially the spiritual and psychological ones—we realize the beauty in them, that is, the lessons they taught us, the values they represent, the love they recall, and the wisdom they bestowed. Scars help us to appreciate anew the miracle of the healing process.
Our song is called “Healer” and it is sung by Kari Jobe:
Here is that second video entitled “How a Wound Heals Itself.” It takes about 4 minutes.
Is there anything you’d like to share with us on this topic? We welcome a response from you!
PS: Please keep in prayer my presentation at the Norbertine Center for Spirituality on April 29 and the retreat for the Sisters of St. Francis in De Pere, Wisconsin April 30-May 5. Thank you!