It was about 3 ½ months ago that the sky fell one stormy Sunday morning. I remember in vivid detail the unfolding of that day. Shortly after I sang a solo at my parents’ church, we could hear the rain, the thunder, the wind. We sat on the other side of the stained glass windows, curious about what our eyes could not see. As we exited the sanctuary we could see the hail stones bouncing through the grass. Small ones. No one was even worried about their cars outside in the parking lot. We waited for the storm to pass and then we headed home.
I’ll never forget the moment I realized the crop in the field outside my car window was soybeans. Soybeans stripped of every pod and every leaf. Debris was all over the road. And the damage only seemed to get worse and worse as we neared my parents’ house near Eldora.
The scene was breathtaking. The damage stung with an almost physical pain. There were no words. And the crop loss, oh the crop loss. Fields full of what was supposed to be record-breaking corn yields – now a sopping, stripped, beaten mess. Mile after mile after mile of incredible loss for farmers who work too hard.
We hadn’t been back since the day the hailstones fell and the winds tore. But my parents had lived every painful day of recovery. I laughed over the phone as I told Mom we were only coming home for Thanksgiving dinner if she could promise me there would be no hail. She laughed too. And then we fell silent. What was left of the beaten corn had been harvested row by painful row. But it still felt too soon to joke.
It was dark as Brian pulled onto their gravel road. But I could see the empty fields. And I breathed a sigh of relief. Somehow, on the surface, it all seemed like maybe it had been a bad dream. It was dark, and I was glad.
The next morning was Thanksgiving Day. We loaded our little ones in the car and set off for church. I was struck by the sameness. We did this very same thing just months ago. That morning it had all started out so normal. Then the sky opened and released one of its most punishing assaults. But yes, now all the fields were empty. The crops were gone. Some of them harvested. Some of them disced right under. Regardless, they were gone. And if you hadn’t been there 3 ½ months ago, if you didn’t know what happened that Sunday morning, you would think that the farmers were enjoying the fruits of their labors. That this Thanksgiving morning they would be driving to church and thanking God for the abundant harvest.
I could almost make myself believe it hadn’t happened.
But I knew better. So that afternoon, after the feasting had ceased and the napping had commenced, I went out to find the scars.
They were still there.
How often do we seek out the scars? Wouldn’t we all rather believe they aren’t there? I'm guessing almost every single person in my parents’ congregation drove to worship that Thanksgiving morning wanting to believe that August morning had never happened. If not for themselves, then surely not for their neighbors who had suffered. Don’t we all want to just forget?
It’s almost Christmas now. We celebrate that Jesus was born – that He came to earth to dwell with us and to teach us and to save us. But I’m always struck by the joy of Christmas – how odd it is that we celebrate. Because in a way, I’m still sad for that little baby who came to earth just so He could die a cruel death to save me from my sin. I have trouble separating the pain of the cross from the joy of Bethlehem. To me, they are linked – bound together. Part of me at Christmas wants to just forget how the story goes. Part of me doesn’t want to see the scars.
But still He calls us to attention.
Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” When He said this, he showed them his hands and feet.
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.
The scars are evidence of our deliverance - that He lives on even still. And there is great beauty in that heinously ripped flesh that had hung on a tree.
This Christmas, I celebrate the scars.