As I woke up and adjusted my position to get a few extra moments of slumber, the place on my rear, upper thigh where I had slid the night before to stop a rogue ball instantly started throbbing.
The night before was one of the last softball games of the summer league season. I had been playing first base; my favorite position ever since High School. The speed and split-second response of that position is quite exciting…except when you have to slide on the dirt with shorts on to retrieve a fly-away ball.
I should have known better than to wear shorts.
My upper thigh was pretty banged up and just the thought of having to put pants on caused me to cringe.
But a larger part of me cringed even more at the thought of wearing shorts. I wanted to hide the deep blue and purple bruises and bloodied scrapes because it was embarrassing.
It certainly wasn’t pretty and I wanted to cover it up, no matter how much the friction between cloth and raw skin hurt.
I didn’t want anyone to see the consequences of my poor decision to wear shorts and the nasty blemishes that now marked up my once smooth skin.
Several months later and you can still see some remnant of that incident; a constant reminder to never wear shorts while playing competitive softball.
Sometimes bruises and scars are a way of puffing up oneself; of showing off one’s durability, bravery, or high pain tolerance. There are some blemishes though that we desperately want to hide out of shame and embarrassment.
I think of the movie Charlie St. Cloud starring Zac Efron. He had scars on his chest from when the EMTs attempted to resuscitate him after a fatal car accident that took the life of his younger brother.
For Charlie (Zac Efron), those scars were a constant reminder of his shame and guilt and the anguish of his brother’s death due his poor driving decisions.
He wanted to cover up and hide the deeply-rooted scars of his mistakes.
While the scars on his skin were indeed deep, the scars on his heart were even more so.
That’s the thing about scars – they never go away and always serve as a constant reminder of what once hurt us.
While it was dirt and gravel that severed the tender skin of my upper thigh, it is my sin and disobedience that severs my heart; leaving it bruised and beaten with the scars of regret, anguish, guilt, and shame.
Many times when I am caught in moments of self-reflection, I fall into a lot of discouragement and humiliation; feeling as if there is no place on my heart and conscience left untouched by sin.
I wish to be unblemished.
What I think I often forget though is that the One whom I am embarrassed to be seen by due to my many scars and bruises is the only One who doesn’t see them; or better yet, who does see them but chooses not to call me by them.
I was reading Hebrews the other day and was struck by the beauty of chapter 9 verses 13 through 14.
The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our conscience from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God (Hebrews 9:13-14).
Often when embarrassed by our physical bruises and scars, we try to cover them up as best we can. This can be said about the bruises and scars on our hearts as well.
While we may not use the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer as the Israelites did, we use other things to appear outwardly clean – social media platforms, service, empty or false words, high achievements, and even judgement and condemnation towards others.
But how beautiful it is that no matter the extent of our efforts, it is only through the blood of the one and only unblemished Christ that can cleanse our conscience from the poor decisions we make that leave scars and bruises on our hearts.
Galatians 3:26 says that in Christ Jesus we are all children of God through faith for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
Just as my long pants that I chose to wear that next day covered up my bruises and scrapes, so too does the love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ clothe us in righteousness.
When we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ Jesus, it is no longer us that God sees. It is no longer our beaten up, bruised and broken bodies that he looks upon, but rather the love and grace and mercy and forgiveness that moved Jesus to hang unblemished upon the cross and say “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
That is the One who God sees when he looks down on you and me.
Covered by the blood of Christ, we stand bruised and beaten before the throne of grace with full confidence that it is not the scars He sees, but His holy and precious child standing before him, beautifully unblemished.