Spiritual Scars

I have a scar on my left hand. Its a small brown spot that shows up, especially when I go swimming or get a tan. I got the scar when I accidentally stuck my hand on a burning light bulb at age 5. Needless to say, that scar reminds me of the horrible pain of that burn. However, now I usually find myself laughing at the oddity of that injury. I have another scar underneath my right eyebrow. You can't really see it, unless you look for it. Its from where a kid hit me with a screwdriver when I was just a toddler. I have a scar on my knee. Its from a bad bike wreck I had as an 8 year old. I have a scar on my right elbow. Its from where I tripped and fell while I was jogging about 5 years ago.

We all have physical scars that remind us of a former injury. You could sit 10 people in a room, and probably get 100 different stories just by comparing scars. Scars are reminders. Jesus' scars were a reminder of the brutal death He endured on a cross. His scars were also proof that He was indeed Christ. Our scars are proof that we did indeed endure an injury. Sometimes, our scars are a badge of honor. We enjoy telling the crazy stories of how we got hurt, beat up, scraped up, or cut. Sometimes the physical scars aren't a happy reminder, but a reminder of how life was spared or how close the call of death came.

However, I think the scars that we often are the most affected by aren't the physical ones, they're the emotional ones. I'm not trying to get all Dr. Phil or psychological on you, but I have seen, especially being in the ministry, the lasting effects and monumental damage of an emotional scar. Yes, I do believe that there are people who take advantage of troublesome pasts, and make mountains out of molehills in terms of their excuses. There are fakers, but there is also real hurt. Often times, the ones who talk about their emotional scars the least are the ones who are more affected by them. What continues to blow me away are the spiritual scars that people have. Spiritual scars are like emotional scars, but usually with some type of spiritual link.
This past weekend, Clarksville hosted a festival called Rivers and Spires. Thousands of people flooded downtown Clarksville visiting vendors, eating funnel cakes and turkey legs, drinking beer, listening to music, bringing their kids to play on inflatables, and looking to have a good time. Our church was fortunate to have some booths at the festival. Through the different booths we were able to connect with people, tell them about our church and different ministries. However, one specific booth, placed in the heart of the festival traffic was specifically targeted at evangelizing. I had the privilege of working that booth for about 2 hours. In those 2 hours, I had about 10 good, engaging conversations that included sharing the gospel. I can honestly say that in all 10 cases, the people I talked to had been burned by the church. Not First Baptist per se, but a church in their past. They came from all different backgrounds, traditional, contemporary, Baptist, Pentecostal, Non-Denominational, and Catholic. However, their stories were all very similar. Most of them were young, in their early to mid 20s, and they wanted nothing to do with Christ, because of the spiritual scars from their past.

We often times wonder why young people are leaving the church. Its not just because youth ministers entertained them when they were teenagers and then the church left them high and dry when they turned 18. That might be a small part of it. Its because Christians didn't act like Christ. Its because the church taught love, service, and following the leading of the Holy Spirit and didn't actually live it out. Its because some jerk told them to take off their hat in the sanctuary and stop wearing holey jeans because that was disrespectful to God. Legalism chokes out and kills new and young believers. Its because they saw churches fighting over worship styles, carpet color, and programs, rather than cooperating together to serve people in need. Its because the church was so focused on attendance and baptism numbers that they forgot to disciple the new believer. No wonder they've been burned. No wonder, they have spiritual scars.

I could spend a whole post talking about the problems with the church and how we often time focus too much on rules, personal agendas, and conforming people into a box, instead of the love and truth of Christ. We really do need a close examination of our hearts However, this is not what I feel led to put in this post. The truth is, people will find almost any excuse they can not to follow Christ. I believe, even those inside the church, are dealing with spiritual scars. We've been burned by the church too. We've all had our moments that have made us question whether or not this whole church thing is for me.

I believe that if you're truly a follower of Christ, you realize that the church is where you need to be. The church does have issues, but we are still called to love and serve the church. After all, the church is the bride of Christ. However with that said, we still deal with the aftershocks of spiritual scars. This comes from personal experience. The burns by the church are always happening. A minister is certainly not exempt from them. I'll admit that sometimes those scars can surface and really play games with my attitude. The enemy wastes no time in throwing those scars up in our face. He wastes no time in trying to keep us ineffective for Kingdom work. That is why it is vital that we be proactive in overcoming our spiritual scars. We don't ever need to get too cocky in our own spirituality that we think the enemy can't lure us away from the church by the baggage of a spiritual scar. I'm not saying that that all scars can completely go away, but I am saying that the Holy Spirit can helps us overcome the damage and discouragement that scars bring up. Here are some ways I believe we overcome spiritual scars:

1. Forgiveness: This may be the biggest one! We have to actively practice forgiveness in our lives. Even when it is difficult, we need to seek to forgive. Christ provides the ultimate example, but it is gonna take more than just knowing how Christ forgave. We have to cultivate His attitude and mind.

2. Look at the Positives: While spiritual scars can do damage on our spiritual lives, they can also be the beginning of true spiritual growth. Look at Job. Look at the first chapter of James. God uses the testing of our faith to develop perseverance in us. I can personally look back at some scars in my life and see the wealth of wisdom that God gave me through them. Look at the good things that have come from the scars.

3. Don't compare scars: Don't ever compare one scar in your life to another. What happens when we compare scars is we see all the people and events that have burned us in the past as the same. We almost view those scars as a team, representative of all the church, working against us. The truth is, its the enemy working in individual lives and situations to bring about chaos. Don't compare God to the scars. Again, the enemy is at work in people, even people that call themselves Christians.

4. Pray: When you're reminded of a scar, the best thing to do immediately is pray. Don't let the scar fester in your brain. Our minds and hearts are naturally prideful, evil, and wicked. If we let the scar fester, without going to God, we will start to have prideful, evil, and wicked thoughts in regard to the scar.

There are perhaps other ways to be proactive in overcoming spiritual scars. Feel free to share those. I would love to hear from you. Scars are not easy to overcome and overlook, and sometimes they stick with people forever. However, let's strive hard to give those to God, and let's make a commitment as believers to not add to the bank of spiritual scars in someone else's life.