Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Marks

I have a weird cat. Now I realize what is running through your mind -- all cats are weird. True enough. But this cat is weird, even for a cat. Some days, it's like he is involved in his very own role-playing adventure, or at least playing some kind of telekinetic round of paintball. But I've learned to deal with him, and I actually like him. He's only lived with us for about three months now, and we adopted him from another family, so I know he arrived with his own built-in idiosyncrasies.

Last week I noticed something else about him. This cat is mostly white with a few black splotches, but there is now a spot of rusty-tan on the top of his head. It wasn't there before. It bothered me for a few minutes, wondering what kind of feline disease this cat had picked up. Then it hit me. One of this cat's idiosyncrasies is that he loves to play in the water. He will spend an hour sitting in the bathtub playing with the water which drips from the leaky faucet. Half the time I bend down to give his head a rub, he is wet between the ears -- not behind, but literally between. What I finally determined is that this crazy cat has sat under the leaky faucet playing submarine (or whatever he calls the game) so much, he is developing a rust stain from the hard water in our well! Instead of having a bathtub ring he has a bathtub large dot on the top of his head! His head fur is scarred due to the lifestyle he leads.

I only have one scar. It's barely visible anymore. As a kid, I was playing with an overturned bicycle, spinning the wheel as fast as I could. Then as I tried to spin it a little faster, my finger was sliced by the skinny little fender which stretched over part of the tire. The blood poured. I didn't get stitches, but I probably should have. My mother basically taped the wound together, which left a three-inch, worm-like scar on the middle finger of my right hand. It used to be much more visible, but it's faded away to the point where I really have to study my hand to find the scar.

Other people have all kinds of scars. Some are surgical and give the resemblance of a skin zipper to the naked eye. Other scars are from injuries like mine, only worse. Still others have scars from a fight or from sports. A few people have bragged that their scars make them look dangerous. Others have been more forthright in saying that the scars look like they were stupid on a previous occasion.

In Galatians 6:17, Paul writes that he bears on his body the marks of Jesus. Scholars can debate exactly what he meant by that. Certainly Paul was beaten around for preaching Christ in inhospitable villages, so he could have been talking about physical scars -- the souveniers of persecution. But he also could have been talking about being touched by Christ. Physically, Paul was temporarily blinded by Jesus on the Damascus Road. It is believed Paul had eye problems thereafter, perhaps a reminder of what had happened. But spiritually, Paul had been touched as well. He was a different man as an apostle than he was studying under Gamaliel as a youth. The marks of Christ on Paul's life were not simply physical, but they affected his entire being to the point where Paul could say, "Follow me, as I follow Christ."

I, too, bear the marks of Jesus. But mine are not physical. It isn't always as obvious as a rust spot on the head of a black and white cat. But it affects me just the same. My life is different because of Him. It's not an easy thing to explain, but I experience His guidance. I feel the strength that is not my own. I am led in my teaching and preaching such that sometimes I almost feel possessed by the Holy Spirit, realizing that the previous five minutes the sermon were not something that I wrote or even planned to say.

The marks of Jesus Christ are emotional as well. I know where to turn when I am weak and tempted. I understand that even if my prayer is answered differently that I asked, that He knows my pain and what is best. And I see how He has used the pains and heartaches of my life to mold me more into the the image of Christ Jesus.

Perhaps there are those who think I live in my own little world. As I watch my cat, there are people watching me, thinking, "What in the world is going through that guy's bald head?" But that's alright. It's just because I bear the marks.


Jennifer said...

That is one crazy cat story! I have always wondered what Paul was referring to as the marks of Jesus. He did say he bore them on his body, so they must have been physical. But you are absolutely right, all of us who have been touched by Jesus spiritually bear the marks of it. I love this song by Sarah Groves that says “in Your hands, the pain and hurt look less like scars, and more like character.”

julie said...

Great post, Rev. Thanks.

A Human Bean said...

I look back and see both the scar I have and the one God helped me avoid and know that Christ has forever shaped me.

HeyJules said...

I've got the marks, too -

and couldn't be more proud.

Kim said...

When I think of scars, I tend to think of the ones that I still smart over. I like your way of thinking better.