I had a friend in the previous community where I lived. I did not know him during some of his darker days. I only knew him when he had been restored to sobriety and was helping others to stay clean as well.
Something about his arms fascinated me in perhaps a perverse sort of way. His forearms were heavily tattooed with beautiful designs, but beneath these you could see the scars of the needles from the time he was abusing drugs. I have seen the power of twelve step and other programs of mutual support and accountability to lift people into life again after drug and alcohol abuse; and here was a person who now, knowing his own need of supportive community, had taken on the role of sponsor, leader, and mentor. He knew he was only one step away from disaster, but he praised God for his recovery and the ability to serve others each day. The beautiful, gentle, strong personality that had once been marred by drugs now shone forth in power and grace. Here, truly, was a story of the resurrection!
When I looked at my friend's arms, I made the strange connection to the body of Jesus. When Jesus encountered Mary, one of his women followers, in the garden of his entombment, he appeared to her in his own body. It was not beaten, bloody, and torn as it had been during his torture, trial, and execution. His body was beautiful, glorious, and strong. And yet, there were still the scars and marks of what Jesus had been through. She still saw, as did the follower, Thomas, that Jesus had wounds in his hands, feet, and side; wounds he received on the cross. He was still the one who had passed through this terrible ordeal. He was also somehow different. Risen from death, Jesus had been renewed and held in his hands the power to renew and raise up others.
I remembered that reality when I looked upon the arms of my friend, and when I gaze into the pained faces of many others who have gone through their own ordeals. I can reassure them that there is life on the other side of these crosses they carry, and that there is life on the other side of all that we presently can know or fathom. Strange...I can have all that "preached" to me by a friend and his scars, and because of a greater "friend" and his wounds!
Christ is risen; risen indeed! Alleluia!