April marks the unofficial beginning of summer in the Southwest of the U.S.
As I’ve started wearing summer clothing again, there’s a part of me that has resurfaced that I almost forgot about in the winter months, even though it has been with me every day for five years.
Previously covered by pants and leggings, the quarter-size scar on my right leg is again fully visible in my summer wardrobe.
I’ve looked at my scar hundreds of times, yet by grace, last week God used my unsightly scar to usher me into spiritual reflection. One morning, looking at my scar while putting on sandals, I found myself surprisingly comforted: Jesus has scars, too.
There’s something about John’s Easter account that speaks to my soul. To me, John 20:19-30 feels like the most honest depiction of the “squirrely” events surrounding Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.
When we read this text, we find the disciples suffering from trauma in the aftermath of the crucifixion. The disciples had watched — helplessly — as their leader was unjustly taken from them in the Garden of Gethsemane, beaten as a prisoner of war, and ultimately murdered in the most brutal way that the Romans could fathom.
As if this traumatic loss of their beloved wasn’t bad enough, they had the added threat of being targeted next due to their association with Jesus. One could argue that the disciples were also wrestling with unique spiritual trauma due to their persecution stemming from their fellow Jewish siblings.
In response to this complex trauma, many of the disciples fled together in hopes of finding somewhere they could feel safe again. They ran away to someone’s house, locking the doors in fear.
Thomas, however, responded by isolating himself. He was the only disciple separating himself from the group by not seeking refuge in the house.
When the other disciples did finally come to find Thomas, he could not bring himself to believe their good news — perhaps not because he “doubts,” but because distrust is another common trauma response, such as fear, restlessness and isolation.
In the face of such trauma, an important question rises to the surface: Is it really possible to heal from such distress? If so, what does this healing even look like?
Thankfully, the story doesn’t end with the disciples’ staying trapped by their trauma. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have the rest of the Christian Testament or a Christian tradition today!
After victoriously rising from his own traumatic death, Jesus did not leave his disciples alone in their isolation. Jesus sought them out. He understood their fear and was patient with their questioning. Jesus spoke words of peace to them and, most importantly, showed the disciples his scars.
Scars are complex, marking the site of a wound that was deep enough to damage the deepest parts of our skin. But the scars are not the wound. Wounds are active sources of pain and damage. Scars, on the other hand, only form when a wound heals.
By revealing his scars, Jesus showed that no power — no religious faction, world government or even death itself — was any match for God’s resurrection power and reconciling love.
The disciples didn’t have to stay hidden behind locked doors. They saw Jesus’ scars and found the peace they needed to re-emerge and travel the world with the good news.
Thomas didn’t have to remain isolated or untrusting. By God’s grace, Thomas saw Jesus’ scars and regained his hope and belief for life anew— even after all that had happened.
As it turns out, Easter is the gospel of the scarred. Easter is good news because Jesus has the power to heal all wounds into scars.
Similarly, trauma is a wound, but God can heal it into a scar.
One may not ever fully forget the painful memories associated with the traumatic event and there may be certain triggers to avoid. But over time and with intentional self-work, Susan Spicer observes that “[recovery from trauma] involves placing the event behind you and living joyfully, so that the event is no longer in control of your emotions or your life.”
This is what it means to be healed from trauma.
Furthermore, each type of wound requires different treatments. Healing from trauma is an individual process, and God can work through a variety of means to bring this healing.
Generally, there are three phases of trauma recovery through which survivors journey: safety and stabilization; remembrance and mourning; reconnection and integration.
There are many treatment methods that one can use through their healing journey, including exercise, mindfulness practices, taking care of your body, connecting with loved ones, engaging with creative expressive outlets, participating in a support group with other survivors, and seeking professional help from a licensed psychologist.
The scar on my leg doesn’t hurt anymore, though it reminds me of the pain I felt when the wound originally formed.
Now my scar reminds me how God has gifted me with strength and resiliency to get past that injury and the disease that caused it.
My scar has become part of my story, baptized with Christ, moving with me towards the promise of new, abundant and eternal life.
Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing series focused on engaging the emerging generations of faith leaders. If you know anyone who might be interested, encourage them to submit an article for consideration to firstname.lastname@example.org.