We generally want to hide our scars. To us they are ugly, shaming signs of weakness. But not so wth Jesus.
A week after the day of the resurrection Jesus invited Thomas, and I believe us, to see his scars.
According to John, Jesus had appeared to Mary Magdalene who went and told the disciples that she had seen him. That evening Jesus appeared to the disciples. The first thing he said was, "Peace be with you." And then, John says the first thing he did was to show them his scars. Ponder that for a minute.
I don't know what qualifies as your equivalent of hanging naked nailed to some wood while a crowd mocks you. Oh, and he was stabbed in the side with a spear. And he was thrashed violently beforehand by some soldiers. So what has gone on for you that was meant to tear down your dignity from your core? Whatever it is, most of us do what we can to conceal our scars rather than share them with others. Shoot, I wear longer shorts just to try to cover up some vericose veins.
Jesus showed us that our scars have the power to bind us together. We fear they will tear us apart but by sharing them with one another they create some form of adhesive in the weakness of our humanity. And God glories in our weakness as we lean into him.
So what is the cost of not sharing our scars? A clue is contained in Jesus next words. He reiterated peace be with you and went on to say, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."
What does it mean to retain the sins of others? I believe it is tied to the concealing of our scars. When we are sinned against there is a transference of shame onto our being. The sin of the other appears to be our own and most often we feel deep shame over it. Shame isolates. We cover up. Hide. After a while we forget that we are even doing it, yet occasionally we'll lash out at another in innappropriate ways, or we'll leave a group not understanding exactly why we felt so uncomfortable there. The outcomes of hiding are many, not the least of which is never getting to a place of forgiveness with the one who originally brought harm.
Retaining the sins of others harms us in ways that usually lay hidden to our awareness. It's a weight like a wrecking ball to our lives. In our unforgiveness we don't mean to retain that tonage. Be free of it. Show your scar. So and so did this to me. I forgive him. I forgive her. And most likely your friend will pull up a sleeve and say, "Here is one of mine."
So explore your wounds. Jesus invited Thomas to put his finger on his hands and to put his hand in Jesus side. Touch your own wounds with a trusted friend or counselor. Be curious about the impact they've had on your relationships. Once you feel like you're able to comprehend the damage and look clearly at the scar tissue, offer forgiveness to the one who harmed you. It depends on the situation whether you actually do this face to face or just work that out with your trusted friend.
Showing our scars helps us get to a place of forgiveness. The act that we feel will bring us the most shame ultimately brings us the most freedom.