I was helping my dad move some sheep from one pasture to another, and I didn’t see the wire, chest high across my path. I don’t even remember how old I was – probably preteen. It was dusk, and I was running behind the sheep as we drove them down the road and into a pasture. I thought the gap in the fence was a regular gate, and I didn’t see that there were strands of barbed wire set about 3-4 feet above the ground, above the height of the sheep. And I didn’t hear (or pay attention to?) my dad warning me about them. One second I was running full out behind the sheep, the next I was laying on the ground. I felt more surprised than hurt, but then I saw the gash on my left arm – better than 3 inches long – and deep enough that I could see muscle (and tendons, and perhaps bone if I cared to look deep enough). Fortunately the wire had missed my artery, and any bleeding was superficial.
We lived 45 minutes from the nearest town, and we were at least a half mile from home in walking distance (across the field — to take the road probably doubled that). There were no cell phones in those days, and I recall that my dad had to run home, call the doctor and get the car to drive me to get stitched up. I was bearing that open wound for the better part of two hours, at least. Many decades later, I still have that v-shaped scar.
I was recently reading from John 20, the passage addressing Thomas’ lack of belief and demand for evidence. Something other than the emphasis on faith and unbelief struck me; it’s sort of my revelation of 20/20 vision. The 20th verse says, “And when He had said this [‘Peace be with you’], He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord.” He showed them. They saw.
He showed them His hands and His side. He showed them the open wound in His side. Not a scar. An open wound. It was a wound that Thomas could put his hand into; the Roman’s sword didn’t make a small wound. The resurrected Jesus, in His glorified body, carries – present tense – an open wound. I’d never thought that through before, that when I see Jesus, he’ll still have that open wound. And if I want to see clearly – to see with 20/20 vision – I need to see everything in context of Jesus’ wounds.
That scar on my arm was my first, but not my last. I’ve got others, some from other barbed wire fences, some from accidents, some from the surgeon’s knife, but I don’t carry any open wounds. Not physically, at least.
I do carry other kinds of open wounds, though. Or ones easily opened. I’ve found that just a word – and usually, one uttered in innocence at best, or carelessly at worst – can open old wounds within me. A mistake on someone else’s part can convince me of malevolence aimed towards me (anyone else drive I-95?), and evoke a reaction from me, sometimes because of past wounds.
Bruce Hornsby has a song called “Sticks and Stones:”
“Oh sticks and stones can break my bones
But your words always hurt me the most
My scars will heal but the slurs won’t
Blow up and lose my head well I hope I don’t (I hope I don’t)”
I’m sure many or most of us will have suffered at the hands of our peers, whether in school, work, or life/relationships in general. I may or may not have suffered from childhood slurs more than others; I don’t know. I do know that when I had the opportunity I would join in and mock/degrade others, so I inflicted wounds as well as received them.
I can say that, even as a Christian, I’ve been falsely accused at times, deeply wronged at other times. And I’ve also wounded and wronged many of those close to me. Whether it’s wounds inflicted on me, or wounds inflicted by me, I don’t have the memory, intellect or judgment to catalog all of them and weigh them. I’m more concerned about those I inflicted than those inflicted upon me, and I’m sure that I’m not aware of some of those.
But one wound weighs on me too heavily to bear, a mortal wound I can’t ignore.
Charles Spurgeon said of the end of the age, “A crucified Christ with his wounds still open will be a terrible sight for an assembled universe.”
He continues: “The death of Christ was wrought by the hand of manhood, of all and entire manhood. Others did it for you, and though you gave no consent verbally, yet you do assent in your heart every day.”
And I stood with those unbelievers in past days, but the wounds that Jesus carries, the wounds He received on my behalf for my redemption, are too heavy to bear, and too deadly to endure.
But I don’t have to bear the weight of those mortal wounds; Jesus did, and Jesus does.
As Isaiah says: “One look at him and people turned away. We looked down on him, thought he was scum. But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us. We thought he brought it on himself, that God was punishing him for his own failures. But it was our sins that did that to him, that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!
“He took the punishment, and that made us whole.”
So the wounds I have that occasionally reopen, the scars, are in His care, His concern. He, however, bears an open wound so that I might not suffer the wounding and death I deserve from a righteous God.
It makes the wounds that others have inflicted on me seem pretty small. Can I judge anyone for the wounds inflicted on me, when Jesus’ wounds delivered me from judgment? It’s no inconsequential thing that Jesus, in His transformed, redeemed, resurrected body chose to carry these wounds forward.
So that’s the 20/20 vision I want to have. I want to have a vision for what’s been done for me, not what’s been done to me. And when something triggers an old wound, I want to remember that all wounds will be healed.
Except those in His hands, His feet, His side.