Not that long ago, I was reading a book and the author started talking about some historical figure of the faith. Recent historic, like a guy who has since become a saint or something of that nature. And one of the evidences they had of this man's powerful spiritual experience was that he at one point in his life became marked with the stigmata.
Stigmata is what it's called when the scars of Christ appear on someone else's body. Now, whether you believe in that phenomenon or not, just go with me on this. Because the story of this man got me, naturally, looking down at my own hands. It got me wondering about my spiritual experience. It got me thinking about just how it is that God has marked me.
It didn't take long for me to reach the understanding that I wouldn't want this. I don't think there's a place within me in which I could embrace even the spiritual phenomenon of the stigmata. No matter what the spirit of God is on my life at any given time, I couldn't accept such a mark if it were ever to happen. Primarily because...I've never saved anyone.
These marks...these are the marks of a Savior, and I am the least of these. But all of this led me to think about this Savior's hands, and what I see beyond the marks of the Cross...I think I wouldn't mind having that. What I see beneath the blood stains on the nail-pierced hands...I think that's more what Jesus looks like through us. Not a spiritual experience, but a human one.
Not a wound but a callus.
Jesus was a carpenter. His hands were strong. But they were always set to His work, too, and because of that, this world kept rubbing against them. It kept taking His tender flesh and making it stronger, marking it with the work of His hands and the work of love He did among the people. Marking Him as a man who worked hard, a man who served well.
The callus is this perfect balance between strength and tenderness. It takes a measure of strength to do the work in the first place, whether the work is carpentry or something else. It takes a willingness and an ableness of the hands to work. And the calluses, these, too, look like strength. They look hardened, abrasive, firmed. But this is not truly so. A callus forms from the tenderness of the flesh. It's the softness of a place that invites the firming of it.
See, that's the kind of holy life I want to live. I want to live a ministry that marks me not with the Son of God, but with the Son of Man - with the measure of strength and tenderness required to work hard, to serve graciously, and to love well. I think that's the kind of holy life God wants from me.
The stigmata might be cool. I don't know. Maybe it's a phenomenon and maybe it's interesting and maybe it means something. But I don't think we were meant to identify with the Savior; I think we were called to be one with the Servant. I think our lives are marked not by spiritual experiences but by the simpler things. The kinds of things one experiences by walking through this world, by engaging persons as they come, by telling a story through love.
Which is what the Cross...and the callus...are all about anyway.