25 | scar tree | djab wurrung country #Lent 2023

We are always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. (2 Corinthians 4:10-11)

When my mum was disabled by MS, I lost count of the number of good Christian folk who demanded to know whether we had ‘tried prayer’ to cure her. Now that I have my own health wobbles, I sometimes find it hard not to blame myself. The pernicious thoughts sneak in: ‘Is this the result of unhealthy choices? Too much stress? A lack of prayer?’ Never for anyone else, mind; just for myself.

There’s a nasty stream of thought which implies that disability, suffering, and trauma are avoidable or easily fixed. Many Christians, and many in the wellness crowd, seem to believe that health and wealth are signs of blessing, and that disability, suffering, and trauma are punishment for faithlessness and sin. By implication, if we just prayed enough or meditated enough, if we were only good enough or determined enough or disciplined enough or pure enough, then all forms of suffering would simply disappear. And while I know this attitude goes against the witness of Jesus, it can be hard not to internalize it sometimes.

So I’m grateful for the scar trees dotted around the landscape. When I see one, I remember that ‘we always carry in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may always be made visible in our bodies.’ It’s not in our gifts or strengths, but in our weakness, wounds and scars that Jesus’ light shines through. Trauma, fatigue, depression and more visible forms of suffering can all become sites of grace.

I remember that trees survive the wound, but the scar is never ‘fixed’; it never goes away. Instead, the tree forms a protective thickening around it as it continues to flourish and grow. And I wonder, how do my wounds shape me and my presence in the world? Am I trying to hide them, am I growing around them? Am I letting them be seen in ways which allow God’s light to shine through?

I remember that scars are signs of a much bigger story, a much longer history than what is visible, and that the wound itself may have been formed because something was needed: a coolamon, a cradle, a canoe. And while I don’t believe God ever seeks to inflict pain, I wonder what the bigger story is behind each scar, and what the people need. For, in God’s hands, nothing is wasted; nothing is lost; all things work together for good.

Looking at a scar tree, running my fingers over time-worn ridges and hollows, I remember something else. I remember that even scars can be beautiful. Ω

Lent - scar tree three resized

What is this? Lent is the 40 days, excluding Sundays, before Easter. Traditionally it is a time of reflection and pilgrimage. To help you on this journey, Sanctuary has put together daily stories and images from people in the congregation which are focused on God in this place. Why this theme? Read this! #Lent2023. Our Spiritual Geography © Sanctuary, 2023. Sanctuary is based on Peek Whurrong country. Full acknowledgement of country here

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