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Thursday, February 27, 2014

The marks you bear

I've always felt sort of funny on Ash Wednesday every year, walking around with what I know is intended to be a cross, but despite the pastor's best artistic intentions, always looks more like a grease smudge. It's an interesting feeling. When I was younger, it was the same feeling I used to get when I had to walk around middle school with a pimple on my forehead. But as I've gotten older, it has become a mark of God's grace and deliverance that I am proud to wear.

I didn't intend for this to be an Ash Wednesday-themed post, but it got me thinking about the marks we bear, for ourselves, for the world. 

I never know quite how much to trust stuff I find on Wikipedia, but according to Wikipedia and a few other sources, skin scars when the dermis (the deep, thickest layer of skin) is damaged. Simply and generally put, scars outwardly represent a deep inner reality or occurrence. They outwardly express when something has cut us deep.

 The marks you bear will be caused from what has cut you deepest. Think physically, spiritually, mentally, emotionally. What has cut to you deepest? 

Has it been the pain you've had to endure for the past three months, the past three years? Has shame cut you deep? Has your insecurity? Have anger, bitterness, jealousy? Has it been the laundry list of ways people have wronged you, and you just can't find it in yourself to forgive them? Or maybe it's one person, one time in your life, one period of suffering and pain that has cut you deep. 

I cannot undermine any of these things; they are difficult, heavy burdens to bear. And they get to us deep. The reality of shame, pain, regret, all cut deep.

But Jesus goes deeper.

No matter the depth of your shame, it will always land in the shallow end of God's grace. And no matter your scars, your Savior's many scars from the cross will always cover over yours. 

And here is the reality: the marks you bear will be caused from what has cut you the deepest. If pain, bitterness, regret, anger, jealousy, have had the most significant effect on your life, those will be the marks you bear - for yourself, and to the world. 

A lot of times in an argument, we always want to have the last word, the final punch. It's kind of silly if you think about it, but the last word, to us, defines who "wins" the argument.

Your story is an incredibly important one, no doubt. But the scars you have - whether they be physical, emotional, spiritual, mental - do not have the last word on your life. They do not have the final say determining the victory. His do. And when we accept His healing grace, His formative and beautiful love, He marks us with something different. We are marked by the Holy Spirit, by grace, by light, by life. When the reality of what Jesus has done for cuts the deepest - deeper than your hurt, deeper than your anger - these will be the marks you bear.  

And suddenly your scars have been turned into beauty marks. The blotched gray smudge on your forehead has become a mark of God's grace, of your freedom. The funny thing about those ashes is that there is almost no way to hide them; they are placed at the forefront of your image, whether you like it or not. And your face is likely the first place people will look, the first aspect of you, that people will notice when they see you. The temptation for me on past Ash Wednesdays, when I was insecure about the ashes so declaratively on my forehead, was to rub them off. Subdue them. Make them a little less bold and noticeable so I didn't stand out.

But in bearing the marks of God's grace and sacrifice, of his crazy wild heart for you, I would challenge you to bear your redeemed scars and the marks you bear unashamedly. Don't dum them down. Don't rub them away because of you're insecure. Don't retract from their boldness.

The marks we bear tell great stories. Don't shy away from telling yours.

posted by Taylor Fohr

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