Scars

April 5, 2010

A sentence written
by Ernest Hemingway hooked my soul years ago and has never let go. “The
world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken
places.”

I thought, “That’s so true it should be in the Bible.”
Then I realized that it is. Hemingway’s words have served as a
hermeneutical key to open a number of biblical stories, particularly
this week’s Gospel passage. I've experienced its truth in my own life
and the lives of people in the churches I have served, resulting in my
book Strength for the Broken Places.

The broken places sometimes leave scars. Another writer, in reviewing Harry Crew’s novel Scar Lover, described scars as signs of healing. Scars are always ugly, but they continue to remind us of all that we have been through.

Once
I began thinking about scars and healing, I started discovering
confirmation of the idea in many places. Here’s a quotation from Eugene Peterson, to which I refer in in my lectionary column in the Century:

This
wound of the self that calls for help, this self that is closed in upon
itself and now is open just a little bit, is an opening through which
we can listen to and answer God. For the wound is more than a wound. It
is access to the outside, to God, to others....The wound must not be
bandaged over as fast as possible; it is there to be a listening post, a
chance to exit the small confines of the self-defined world and enter
the spaciousness of a God-defined world.

In Bread for the Journey, Henri Nouwen writes that

Jesus
invites us to embrace our brokenness as he embraced the cross and live
it as part of our mission. He asks us not to reject our brokenness as a
curse from God that reminds of our sinfulness but to accept it and put
it under God’s blessing for our purification and sanctification. Thus,
our brokenness can become a gateway to new life.

I think people responded positively to The Shack
because it speaks a word of love and grace to the wounded places in our
lives. It’s hard to beat the moment when Papa allows Mac to touch the
scars on her wrists and says, “I never left him, and I have never left
you.” That’s good news for all of us who carry around the scars of our
own experience.

Additional lectionary columns by Harnish appear in the April 6 issue of the Century—click here to subscribe.

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