I loved staying at Grandma Bessie’s house. She had the best bedtime stories. Tales of raising two children during the Great Depression, running a day care in her home, and baking pastries for the local restaurants were all told as we sat in her big bed and listened to the night trains go through old San Luis Obispo.
One of my favorite stories concerned my grandfather, a gentle husband and faithful train engineer who romanced the committed spinster, Bessie. Andrew was seventeen years older than Grandma, but he stood out as the love of her life. The story always ended with his death three months before my father entered the world.
That is how I best remember my grandma—through her stories. It was only recently I realized her narratives were actually stories of personal hardship and deep wounds. Though in the telling they were no longer wounds, but stories of how Jesus had walked with her through the dark times of her life.
Hidden behind the adventure of gleaning summer fruit for the ingredients of winter pies sat the heaviness of a hard working, single mom. Grandma identified herself to me by her wounds—tragedies transformed into stories of Jesus, a gospel if you will, written on the heart of an old woman.
God uses two methods for transforming us into the image of Christ. First, there is his own life growing within us. Secondly, he uses the pain, suffering, and trauma of earthly life to kill anything that doesn’t smell holy in us. If handled wisely, the second makes room for the first.
We all know people who are identified by their unhealed wounds. They call themselves victims. Then there are those identified by their healed wounds. They look like Jesus. Grandma Bessie looked like Jesus to me.
Being known by our wounds is just another characteristic of the Backwards Kingdom. In referring to John 20:19-20, Henri Nouwen said, “It is of great spiritual importance that Jesus made himself known to his disciples by showing them his wounds.”
To whom are you showing your wounds? Are your scars telling a story or a gospel? Will you grow into a wounded storyteller reciting your stories to your grandchildren curled up under a blanket on a cold winter night, or will you just grow old?
Please share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.
In Him together, Susan Gaddis