My son was trying to find a good used car for his daughters. Since their big brother had just graduated, Abby and Erin would be driving themselves to school in the fall. Twice Neil found possibilities, but wisely took the cars to a trusted mechanic for his appraisal.
It fell to me to drive the second of these cars to the repair shop. Our mechanic friend studied the car, drove it a bit, then recommended we not buy it for a number of reasons. Then, he said, “Come here, Reverend. I want to show you something.”
“See those dirty stains on the seats?”
Each seat carried rust-colored stains in wavy lines.
“This car has been flooded,” said Rick. “And here is something else.”
There were scratches–horizontal, odd-looking lines–on the hood and the trunk. “This is where things scraped over the car,” he said.
I thought of the 100,000 automobiles that were ruined in 2005 Hurricane Katrina’s floodwaters. In many cases, the water was six to ten feet deep, and lingered for weeks. I’ve seen photos and heard stories from friends who drove boats over parking lots where all you could see were the tops of cars. It’s easy to imagine something being dragged across a flooded car.
Eventually, the cars were towed and left under bridges and interstates for months before being disposed of.
Later, we learned that some people were doing hasty repair jobs on the flooded cars and passing them off as normal. “Buyer beware” became the mantra.
I said, “Thank you, Rick. I would not have known what to look for.”
Our mechanic friend saved us a lot of headaches and heartaches, and doubtless a good deal of money in repair jobs.
People who go through storms in this life, like that car often carry the scars and stains for the rest of their days.
Some of those stains and scars are visible, if you know what you are looking for….
—anger that seems to have no basis in reality. A floating hostility will attach itself to whatever target (or victim) is handy.
I once pastored a church following a huge split where people had fought verbal battles and took no prisoners. Years later, a few members still carried deep anger over what had been done or said. The stains of that church storm were imbedded so deeply inside them only the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus Christ was sufficient to remove it.
–a sense of entitlement, the feeling that “the world owes me big time after all I’ve been through.”
Such a church member can be a major pain to everyone around him. Pity the new pastor who walks into a congregation without knowing the human traps laying in wait. For members who feel they are owed a great deal in life, nothing the pastor does will ever be enough. They are chronically dissatisfied and will spread their poisonous infection to the rest of the church.
–an all-encompassing fear of conflict and trouble. After the nightmares they have been through, they will do anything to avoid similar crises in the future.
I experienced this syndrome personally. The church I left had been embattled from the first day I arrived, and the one to which I came was trying to recover from a stormy pastorate which had decimated the congregation. If it had been up to me, I would never have led a church business meeting or attended a deacons meeting again. A few of the really ragged ones were enough for a lifetime. And yet, every church deserves a healthy pastor and a solid program. So, I had to face my fear of conflict. Eventually, I recovered and was later able to assist other churches going through their own storms.
–a distrust of the Almighty. “Where was God when my house was destroyed?” “If Jesus loves the church, why did He let them run off our wonderful pastor?” “If God is good, then why did my mother die in that flood?” “Why did God let that church mistreat my father the way they did?”
There are answers for these questions. However, just voicing their distrust is for many war-veterans the beginning and end of their theological musings.
On the other hand, many of the stains and scars of life’s storms are not so obvious and can be unearthed only by those willing to look beneath the surface or who are skilled at people-helping….
–A church I pastored had a leader who criticized everything and was satisfied with nothing. Only when I called on him at home did I learn of the daily physical pain the man lived with. Something in his past had scarred him for a lifetime.
–A deacon with enormous influence and leadership skills built a strong following in every church and then fought his pastor for control. His poor pastors were no match for the man’s tactics and were frequently left bleeding in the road. Someone who had known the deacon most of his life told me his father had been a pastor and he suspects that God had called that deacon to preach early in life, but that he resisted. Whatever went on inside him back then seemed to be continuing, with his relationships paying a huge price.
I quickly admit that I’m no psychiatrist. I’m not one of these people who can see beneath the surface and tell what’s going on with people. I tend to take them at face value, and often turn out to be wrong about them.
Here is what I know…
–Scars on our bodies tend to fix forever in our minds the history that was occurring at that moment. A V-shaped scar on my left index finger is the result of this 5-year-old reaching up to the hot stove to take hold of a pot. How that melted my skin into a “V,” I’ll never know, but there it is. About the same time, I received the scar at the corner of an eye, the result of being chased by a big brother and falling onto the broken rim of a galvanized wash tub. And one more. What appear to be frown-marks between my eyebrows are scars from the time I was riding in the funeral home car and a fellow in a pickup truck ran a stop sign. We broad-sided him and my forehead broke the dashboard.
–When law enforcement agencies are seeking a missing person or a criminal, in giving the description they will frequently refer to the identifying scars. They brand us, you might say.
–Our own scars are records of events and people and times in our lives when something happened.
Marijohn Wilkin wrote an unforgettable gospel song about Heaven that carries this profound line: The only thing there that’s been made by a man are the scars in the hands of Jesus.