Damage, Beauty and Faithful Remembrance

One of the more astonishing passages, for me, in the account of John the Apostle is the rather-morbid moment when the doubts of the disciple Thomas are erased forever by his coming quite literally in contact with the torn-flesh wounds on the hands, feet and side of the risen Jesus.

Most of the time, I think we hurry past episodes like this. However, when we pause long enough to consider just how bizarre this encounter would seem if we were eyewitnesses to something similar, I believe we can learn something about the importance of visual reminders:

John 20:24-29 (ESV)
Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Given the truths we Christians have historically affirmed about Jesus, it’s no stretch to say that He just as easily could have chosen to resurrect Himself in an entirely-scarless body, an enviably-sculpted physique…good as new. Doesn’t He even go on to say – right there in Verse 29 – that those who will believe in Jesus without seeing and feeling his crucifixion scars will be even more blessed?

Why, then, did He choose to hang onto these tangible reminders of the damage done to His earthly body by sinful humans?

In our current American cultural climate, obsessed as it is with absolutely everything being perfect – especially our earthly bodies – perhaps we struggle to relate to Jesus finding it “better” to bear these marks of torture and brutality for all eternity. Will He yet carry them even after The Great Day arrives, and He subjects all of Heaven and Earth to His Lordship (Psalm 8:6; Acts 2:34-35)? What reason can there be to do so…other than a call on the rest of His creation to remember the great price that had to be paid for our rescue?

Sometimes God chooses to bless His children with insight; many times that insight arrives from the least-expected sources.

Third John 1:4Last week, I returned home from work one day and compulsively observed my routine of checking the mailbox. On this particular day, I couldn’t help but notice how seriously messed up our mailbox is. Most days, I can easily breeze past this particular call for home maintenance without a thought, but not that day. I took a good long look and began preparing a mental list of everything that would be needed to address this rather-obvious need; new mailbox stand, post hole digger, ready-mix concrete, etc. Before I could even begin making decisions as to where to purchase repair supplies, it dawned on me that I had not prioritized¬†this particular chore for years and that, even now, my heart was resisting the idea of a new, unbroken mailbox post. The obvious question came soon after: “Why? What is that about?”

I think the answer is inextricably linked to history, relationship and (above all) love.

When Shelly and I met and married within the first five months of 2004, that entire season served as a huge shock to our system and (it must be said) the expectations of many others. There was much resistance – well-meaning and otherwise – to two broken families being brought together under the Lordship of Christ. Having since facilitated the DivorceCare curriculum at The Crossing since 2009, I can see clearly in hindsight just how risky and even foolish it was for the two of us to move so quickly. Shelly had three school-age children, I had two, and we were so taken with each other that we did not adequately account for the responses of others to their lives undergoing so much rapid, radical change. Five of the people we “scarred” in our haste were our own children, all of whom we love deeply, though imperfectly.

In short order, the seven of us were living together in a house designed to comfortably shelter three…and the fun began. (The need for a larger home made itself apparent immediately.) So, while still reeling from the various changes our blended family was already experiencing, the seven of us moved into our current home in a new-at-the-time neighborhood. The Mayers are the original owners of this home, so back in Feb. of 2005 we very much needed to put up a mailbox sooner rather than later. I still recall the chilly afternoon when my “new daughter” Mary and I mixed concrete and she helped keep the post level as I set it with dirt and poured in the concrete. We had a little extra, so we poured that into an empty 2-liter soda container just because we thought it would be cool to have a concrete soda bottle.

The next ten years or so were tough, and that’s something of an understatement. Lots of “relational challenges.” Though not visible, many wounds were incurred, many scars formed.

Sometime after Mary’s younger sister Claire got her driver’s license, she acquired a used Chevy Impala and typically parked it out front on the curb. She now had her pick of nearby street space as all of the other members of The Original Five had grown up and left our home. By this time, nearly a decade had gone by, and the wooden mailbox post had dried out to the point that when Claire lost her bearings for a bit, Impala bumper met treated wood and darn near snapped the thing in half. As this recent photo shows, I did a terrible job of patching it back together. I was in a hurry that day, so I made a mental note to replace the post “soon.”

And a few more years have since elapsed.

Last week, the sight of this jacked-up mailbox frame served to remind me in a new way how faithful God has been to both my wife and I (and all of the “kids” we love) throughout the 12-year roller coaster ride we call “our marriage.” Taken in light of some far-more-serious obstacles our blended family has faced, the mailbox mutilation caused by Claire doesn’t actually concern me that much. Today, the damage is much like a scar our home continues to carry, a visual reminder to me that I value people over property…and that it wasn’t always that way.

So while allowing plenty of room for me to be wrong, I suspect Jesus chose to carry His scars into eternity for precisely the same reason. Not so that He can revisit the injustice He suffered over and over again, in anger, the way a father might fly into a rage over minor property damage, but more like the father who is happily content to have suffered loss for the sake of loving others.

Isaiah 49:16
Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me.

Lamentations 3:22-23
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

3 John 1:4
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

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