This week, for no reason I could identify, a scar on my thumb (the result of an accident with broken glass) started to irritate, as though something was caught in it. It was by no means excruciating, but lay at the back of my consciousness like a sight just out of the corner of our eyes which begs for attention. I found myself repeatedly drawn back to it, although there was nothing I could do. The scar tissue has never been the same as the original, yet the gentle contours have their own fascination to touch.
All of us carry scars, visible and invisible. They are signs of a healed wound, yet a reminder that something can never be as it was. They are different from the raw, gaping pain of a fresh hurt, yet at times they can still trouble us. An unwanted keepsake, they prevent us from the self-delusion that we are invulnerable.
Scarred trees in Australia are an important archaeological evidence of Aboriginal activity, where the bark was removed to create items such as canoes, and in all places when fires occur trees form scars around the damaged tissue which helps foresters understand the extent of past blazes. For us too sometimes they are reminders of something we have created – such as the scar from the delivery of a baby - or they can be signs of a personal inferno which threatened our internal safety but somehow did not destroy us. For us too, scars are signs from which we can learn.
Sometimes, if we are honest, it is simply the passing of time that closed the wound over. But at other times the gentleness of others is crucial in the healing process. David Bowles wrote that “When wounds are healed by love, the scars are beautiful.” When drawn back by a reminder of their presence, perhaps we can choose to gently caress the shapes rather than wish we did not carry them. And, like honest Thomas in the story recounted in John’s gospel chapter 20, take time to look at the scars of love carried by Jesus, who understands every kind of wound we carry and gently touches the outlines with infinite tenderness.