Isaiah 43:1-3, 19 (NASB) – Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I will make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.
Today is Thanksgiving and Sean and Renee are visiting Renee’s father and mother for dinner. After the meal and while everyone is picking up the dishes to clean the table, so that there will be plenty of room for dessert later, Renee notices something on her father’s hand.
“Dad, what’s that scar on your hand?”
“Oh, that?” Renee’s father replied. “It’s from playing with that puppy we had when you and Graham were little. It’s too bad Graham had to work this weekend. We haven’t seen him in a while. Hey we should ‘Skype’ him later.”
“Wait. How did your dog leave a mark that noticeable?” asked Sean. “I thought it was just a small dog.”
“It was. A Scotty. But he had big teeth! And sharp too,” was Dad’s reply. “You see, I would get down on the floor with him and lay belly down like I was going to arm wrestle him. I would make my hand into a fist and he would try to get his small mouth around it. A few times he got a tooth caught on my skin but he was real careful not to bite down because I would let out a fake whimper – like he was hurting me – and he would stop because he thought he hurt me. Of course I would let him know that he didn’t hurt me by playing with him. But one time he drew blood and for some reason it was enough to leave a scar.
“Funny how you can cut yourself over and over again for years and not leave one scar. But the scar that stays is the one you get while having fun. I barely remember getting it.”
Dad sat down and reflected on the past for a bit. Sean, Renee and Mom joined him in the study with cups of coffee. While the four of them sat quietly for a time, Dad couldn’t stop thinking about the scar on his hand or about how it got there. He suddenly got up and walked over to the book shelf where the photo albums were kept. He pulled one out and found a picture of the little Scotty who caused the scar and handed the album to Sean and Renee.
Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT) – Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
While Renee cooed over the pictures of the family puppy, Dad continued at the book shelf looking for another album.
“You know, I have another scar that comes with a completely different type of story. The scar is on my back. I got it when I fell down the steps of a borrowed trailer we used to live in.”
Dad finally found the album he was looking for and sat down next to Sean. He opened up the album to the pages with pictures that showed a ratty looking trailer park. There were a few pictures of an old beat-up trailer with plastic lying on its top. There were also pictures of small children playing inside the trailer with various toys and stuffed animals.
Dad began his story, “These are pictures of a trailer we lived in when the kids were little. It was near a train track and every night a train would blow its horn at 2:00 a.m. and wake me up! And it seemed to rain almost every week. That wasn’t good because there were holes in the roof and the owner didn’t want to repair it. And beggars couldn’t be choosy. You see, we were homeless at the time.”
“What?!” exclaimed Sean. “Homeless?!”
“We were living in Arizona a few years before and barely making it. I had been looking for substantial work for almost two years when I found a job in California, not far from here. A national recession had just begun and within a year I was fired. But I wasn’t fired because of the recession. One co-worker had been jealous I got the job that she thought she was going to get. She started a long list of rumors against me that in the end cost me my job since it was a distraction to the owners. She could never prove the rumors true but the owners couldn’t believe that she would be lying to them. And I was the new guy.
“So here I was in a strange city with no job and a blemished record. I had moved my family three hundred miles for this job and now I’m out of work and wondering when I’ll get work due to the recession. But I did find a job for a short time but couldn’t hold on to it.
“Within a few weeks I found another job, which barely paid over minimum wage, so Mom had to start working just for us to make ends meet. But it still wasn’t enough. Then we found out that Mom was pregnant. Stress doesn’t begin to describe how we were feeling at this time.”
1 Peter 5:7 (NIV) – Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
“Now with all this happening, our only car died! We had to borrow a small car from a friend of ours just so we could get back and forth to work. But that’s not all. Our baby miscarried.”
Mom looked away and Renee walked over to where Mom was sitting and gave her a hug.
“Not only did we have to deal with the loss of our third child, but when leaving the hospital, they handed us their bill. We didn’t have health insurance and we didn’t have any money to pay this hospital bill,” Mom said through her tears.
Dad continued, “To add insult to injury, Mom lost her wedding ring while washing dishes and that charming little Scotty dog ran off and was never found. We couldn’t pay our rent any longer and started living in a borrowed motor home parked on the back lot of a church – a small motor home at that.
“I was working the night shift fulltime at a retail store. Mom was working at a daycare during the afternoon and the graveyard shift at a restaurant after I got off of work. We barely saw each other during the week. We were just barely making financially too. One night at a hospital is not cheap.”
Sean was greatly shaken up hearing this tragedy being laid out before him for the first time.
“Within a month’s time we had lost a child, I lost a well paying job, lost our house, lost our only car, lost Mom’s wedding ring and our dog ran away! We were homeless and I felt useless.”
Psalm 38:4 (NKJV) – For my iniquities have gone over my head; Like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me.
“For the first time since becoming a Christian I hated God. I began to sin in ways I’ve never done before. I saw life as a victim and I became bitter toward God and others. It was like I was a little kid hitting God with both my fists in complete rage. Life is not fair so why should I live for Jesus anymore. He obviously left me alone at the time I needed Him the most so I will just ignore Him from now on.”
Romans 8:1-2 (NASB) – Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
Psalm 103:10-12 (NASB) – He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His loving kindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
There was a pause as Dad took a breath and let that sink in. Renee hadn’t heard this part of the story and was in tears as she heard the heavy voice of her father continue.
“Pretty stupid, uh?”
“Not sure how I would have handled that situation,” Sean weakly commented.
“Exactly. That is what life is about. When it looks like your world is falling apart, how will you respond? It took us awhile to realize God was not testing us beyond what we could handle. Yeah, life was tough but look how God was providing.”
Psalm 68:19 (NASB) – Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden, The God who is our salvation.
“After I confessed my sin of having a horrible attitude and lack of faith, I started counting my blessings like the song says. I was working and so was Mom. And our jobs made it so one of us could always be with the kids so they were not being raised by some unknown childcare worker or babysitter. We did have a roof over our heads. Although the roof of the trailer leaked, it was a roof and It had plastic to cover up the leaks. And we had a car provided to us. God provided friends at the right time to meet needs we could not.”
Gal 6:2 (NASB) – Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.
“Now we had to eventually return the trailer and car but for the time we had them they were a blessing. And within a short time my job led us to move to another city where I was promoted. Soon after, Mom ran into an old friend when she was visiting my new store and was offered a great job that meant she didn’t have to work two jobs any more.
“Not long after that someone came to my store to specifically ask me to work for his company. With these new jobs we were able to move into a nice apartment, with no leaks in the roof, and buy a new car.”
Psalm 55:22 (NIV) – Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.
“Now when I look at the scar on my hand I remember a good time in my life, therefore, it is a good scar. It is on my hand which I can look at any time because it is before me. But the scar on my back I cannot see. It is still there, however, but I have to reach behind my back and feel for it in order to find it. It reminds me of a bad time in my life; therefore, it is a bad scar. But it is on my back. It is behind me. Just like the bad times when I got the scar – they are behind me.”
Philippians 3:13b-14 (NASB) – but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Dad stood up and put the photo albums back on the shelf. As he stood beside the book shelf, he thought to himself for a beat and then said, “It can be very hard for people to think back on terrible moments in their lives, like the one I just described, and not become ashamed at how they initially handled it. The Bible says that God forgives and forgets our sins after we confess them to Him but we tend to remember them for quite some time if not forever. But we better not dwell on them. Just like we did tonight we can take out the album from the shelf and look at it for awhile but we then place it back on the shelf and walk away. And in the future we’ll look at it every once and awhile but we won’t leave it open on the coffee table for us to constantly look at. It’s just a small part of the library, not the center piece.”
Until He Returns
Currently on disability, Brian has been a pastor since graduating from San Diego Christian College in 1986 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biblical Studies. In 1994, Brian earned a graduate level paralegal degree from the University of San Diego. Since 1984, he has been very active in the AWANA clubs serving as a commander, pastor and missionary advisory board member. Brian has worked on pastoral staffs of churches in Colorado and southern California. In 1997 he began a church in his home which currently meets in its own building located in Desert Hot Springs, California. A major hobby of Brian’s is cycling which includes two bike trips through Europe and a Canada to Mexico ride. Brian has been married to Beth, who he met in college, for over 26 years and they currently live in the Palm Springs area. They have two grown children.