John | Even scars become gift in God’s hands

The children of the COVID-19 lockdown will bear scars of this time for the rest of their lives; yet even scars become gift in God’s hands. (Listen.)

This week I read an article which said that the children of the COVID-19 lockdown will bear scars of this time for the rest of their lives. I watch my own children’s social lives shrinking or moving entirely online; I watch them trying to study without the support of being in a classroom with teacher and peers; I watch my youngest dash off her learning tasks, then fall down the rabbit hole of the internet while her older sisters and parents all work.

And I think of the many children whose homes are not safe, or are too small for the number of people trying to work and study in them. I think of children who don’t have good access to online learning, or who don’t have spaces conducive to thought, or who have learning disabilities, and really need an aide beside them.

I think of children who have no garden to play in and blow off steam; I think of children who have no home at all, and for whom this time has particular dangers and risks. And I think, the author of the article is right. Our children will carry scars of this time for the rest of their lives—as, indeed, will we all—and this makes me anxious and afraid.

I’m not the first disciple to feel this way. According to John’s gospel, Jesus’ disciples knew this feeling well, and they knew it on the first day of the resurrection. They know the tomb is mysteriously empty; they have been told by Mary Magdalene that their teacher is alive; and they have gone into lockdown. They are so terrified that they have locked all the doors of the house. Nobody going in; nobody coming out. And to this scared and locked down group of people, Jesus appears. He greets them: ‘Hello! Peace be with you!’ Then he shows them his wounds, and they recognize him with joy.

A week later, the disciples were back in the same room, doors still locked. Who knows what they’d done in the meantime; maybe they’d spent the week in there. But this time, Thomas is with them. Again, Jesus appears to them; again, he shows his wounds. And Thomas recognizes Jesus deeply, saying, ‘My Lord, and my God!’; he is the first person to name Jesus as God.

What I notice is this: The Risen Christ has wounds, has scars, and these are the proof Thomas needs to recognize him. For the god Thomas knows is a god who experiences suffering and who, even in his risen power, is still scarred by it.

We may worry about the wounds that this particular moment is inflicting on children, and on ourselves. We don’t want any more wounds; and we don’t want children to suffer or indeed to do anything but thrive. Yet the circumstances leading to lockdown are out of our control: we can do nothing about it. However, we can take comfort from this story; and we can take comfort from Jesus’ wounds. For they show us that resurrection life is not about perfectly insulated people who never know suffering; nor is it about glossing over any suffering that we ourselves endure.

Instead, resurrection life is about journeying with Jesus Christ through suffering and beyond, recognizing that we are wounded, trusting that Jesus will heal our wounds, but understanding that there will be scar tissue.

And these scars must not all be hidden away. Because healthy pink scar tissue might just be the evidence someone else needs to know that Jesus is alive, and Jesus heals, and Jesus brings peace.

So do not be consumed by worry, and do not be too afraid: for scars can become gift in God’s hands. So even as we meet in conditions of lockdown, even as we experience anxiety and fear, even as we acknowledge our deepest wounds, let us keep focusing on the Risen Christ.

For like a child bursting into a Zoom meeting, he will move through closed doors. He will show us his scars, speak peace, and breathe Spirit into us; he will heal our wounds; and he will send us into the world once again: healed and scarred; reconciling and forgiving; witnesses to living life to the full: even in a time of lockdown. Thanks be to God. Ω

A reflection on John 20:19-31 given to Sanctuary, 19 April 2020 (Easter 2A) © Alison Sampson, 2020. Image credit: Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, 1573-1610. The Incredulity of Saint Thomas, found here.

Hello, friend

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