Scars and Transformation

Usually when I read this passage about Jesus appearing to the disciples and Thomas’ disbelief, I focus on the doubting. After all, I can be a real doubter. I see you, Thomas.

John 20:27

John 20:27

This time, though, I noticed something else – the scars. Thomas uses the scars as proof that it’s Jesus, although the text never shows him actually examining the nail marks or placing his finger in Jesus’ side, as he initially says he needs to. He seems to believe as soon as Jesus stands before him, invites him to explore his scars, and charges him, “do not be unbelieving, but believe.” But the scars are obviously there.

The risen body of the Lord still bears the scars of the crucifixion.

It makes me wonder if all those who were present at the cross also bear the scars of that awful experience, at least emotionally, despite the resurrection. After the chaos of Thursday, the horror of Friday, and the emptiness of Saturday – what would Easter have felt like?

I’ve always sort of assumed that once Jesus was raised from the dead, and once his followers worked through the shock of that, things were all good for them. However, now I wonder if the joy of Easter really erases the pain of Good Friday. It makes up for a lot, of course, but through the progression of those holy days, a cosmic shift has happened, and nothing will ever be the same again. The scars of crucifixion linger on his glorified body. The misery of watching Jesus die on the cross is not wiped from their memories, even after bearing witness to his rising. Resurrection doesn’t cancel out crucifixion; they are both integral parts of the story.

When the risen Christ appears, he bears the marks of crucifixion. When the disciples marvel at the risen Christ, they also carry the pain of his death.

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Likewise, this dynamic is at play in my life, and probably yours, too. I bear the scars of my painful experiences, even after working to heal them, and even amidst joy. In a similar way, when I experience heartache, somewhere in me I carry memories of joy. Even when I let go of the past, all my learning and growth is part of who I am. I carry all of my life with me in the present moment, and that’s a good thing. All my suffering leads to growth, and that growth can be helpful during other times of suffering. I’m not the same person I was as a teenager or in college or in my first job or when I entered my community. I’ve been transformed. Somehow, I hold all the parts of my story with me. And God is in that story, too. It is holy.

What about you? What are your scars? How are they present to you? How do you hold together your life story, in all its joys and sorrows, darkness and light, scars and triumphs? How has God been part of it all?

May God turn our sorrows into joy and our struggles into transformation.

Blessed Easter season, everyone.

By Sister Leslie Keener, CDP

Sister Leslie Keener, CDP is the director of God Space, a community-building spirituality ministry in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. She’s a Sister of Divine Providence with a Masters in Ministry and a Certificate in Spiritual Direction and Retreats from Creighton University. She directs retreats, meets with people for spiritual direction, and serves as the vocation director for her community. She also serves on the Coordinating Council of Spiritual Directors International. She enjoys music, meaningful conversations, and dancing.