|| comments closed||trackbacks off|
|The Scars of Eternity|
Nov. 21st, 2006 at 3:43 am
We’re all promised perfect, blemish-free bodies when we’re resurrected. But Christ’s resurrected body has scars. Is this a defect or an indulgence? How many of us wish that we could keep a few of our scars?
None of my scars are disfiguring. I have a scar on my forehead from early childhood where my brother dropped a cinder block on my head from the tree fort (I looked up at the last moment). I don’t notice it much, and it doesn’t bother me at all, but I suppose I wouldn’t mind seeing that one go.
I’ve got these two ghastly scars on either side of my left forearm, from where I broke it in my late teens. It was a bad break. It required multiple surgeries and plates and screws and whatnot. Those two scars I love.
And my right index finger is crooked from when I cut it off as a young child. I wouldn’t trade that one for the world.
Viktor Yushchenko, the president of Ukraine, famously said, “we are men and we don’t make a big deal over our scars.” He should know. He was movie-star good-looking until political opponents poisoned him, causing his face to become permanently disfigured with severe pock scars. I don’t go around flaunting these scars of mine. Just the same, it disappoints me sometimes that most people don’t notice my crooked finger or the scars on my forearm.
The physical scar represents survival; it stands for a battle that we’ve made it through, or sometimes even won. The late 20th century, hell-bent on destroying traditional notions of manhood, brought about a sissified idealization of manhood, best represented by the male underwear-model that was (rightly) scoffed at in the movie version of Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club; “Is that what manhood looks like?” asks the protagonist in disdain, “I don’t want to die without scars.” The bad news is that according to the current interpretation of the term perfected body, sooner or later all of us guys will look like the underwear model. Only Christ is man enough to carry his scars into the next life.
The mortal permanence of scars lends imaginative force to the notion that we have emotional scars, though it preserves little of the survival imagery. Thus, we’re prone use derogatory terms like “baggage” or “issues” to denote emotional scarring. But our emotional scars mold identity in a way that renders physical scars superficial by comparison. Emotional scars are part and parcel of our “experience.” They’re inseparable from the progress (or lack of it) that we make through life. This isn’t the old platitude that adversity makes us strong. The pain, the disappointments, the guilt that we endure and suffer become part of our identity. Each of us possesses a pain-induced sense of self.
And so do many of our heros. James Bond probably drinks all of those vodka martinis to silence the screams of all the men he’s killed. George Bailey wrestles with suicide. Henry V agonizes over the sins his father committed to secure the thrown he occupies.
In Star Trek V, the cult-leader Sybock offers to free James T. Kirk of his pain. But Kirk refuses Sybock’s novel brand of freedom. Rather than become a wide-eyed, uber-happy, Sybock groupie, Kirk claims his pain for his own:
In real life, the Plan of Salvation posits a continuity of progression from mortality into the afterlife. The guilt and the pain that we feel as mortals are as inextricably tied to that progress as love and joy. Nor does our pain magically disappear at death or resurrection.
Christ suffered for our sins so that we could re-enter God’s presence — a price had to be paid, and He paid it. But the casual way that Christians speak of Christ “lightening our burdens” is, strictly speaking, mistaken. Whether God is there to help us or not, we must wrestle with our own demons, eke out our own victories, and live with the reality of our own losses. To be truly fulfilled, we must share our losses and (in turn) share in the losses of others. Thus is our pain inseparable from the full measure of our creation, and losing it would forfeit the value of mortal probation.
The real scars that we carry into resurrection are not superficial deformities of the flesh. Those fortunate enough to be touched by God’s grace will not not only rejoice, they will also weep with Him for eternity.