Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Scars Tell a Story

It is one of those stories I have rarely shared – and shared with some reticence when I have done so. Scars have a story to tell and my body seems to have more than it’s share. Many of those scars tell tales of foolishness, some of out-and-out stupidity. Pencil fights as a kid were a strange kind of “fun.” Forty years later tiny gray dots in a hand, a thigh and a shoulder are war-wounds from those battles. Scars across both legs stem from a hay-ride just a few years later. Like so many boys in their early teens, jumping off the wagon and racing across the field was part of the fun. In moonlight, a single strand of barbed wire is almost invisible. At a dead sprint a single strand of barbed wire is a mean but effective way to convince a young boy that he is not quite as smart as he thinks. I will bear those scars to my grave as well.

A small scar on the back of my right hand often causes me to pause and ponder God’s protection. I am frankly skeptical of many tales of angelic encounters, and I’m not ready to make any claims – yet a question always lingers in my mind when my glance takes in that particular scar. I can speak with considerable authority now, about why you DO NOT make the final connection to the poor battery when using booster cables.

Battery acid is a vicious concoction. Leaning over a battery with a set of booster cables when it explodes is not good form. It is not recommended for your health. The human eye is especially vulnerable, and since I was much younger in those days I wore no glasses to give even the most basic protection. I had worked with acids and other toxic chemicals enough to know the risks. It was only a ten meter run to the house, but a fiery ring bordered my face before I got there. I didn’t worry about splattering the bathroom as I leaned over the sink and flushed water across my face over and over.

It was only later that I realized how extraordinary that burning was. My chin, the outer boundaries of both cheeks and my forehead had been drenched with acid. The central part of my face, my eyes, nostrils and mouth were untouched. Holding my own hand up to my face I could protect myself in roughly the same pattern. But my hand had not been there. The scar comes from hitting the hood of the truck. It was a 4-wheel drive pickup sitting high on big tires. I had to step onto the bumper to reach the hood to pull it down. Yet from a hunched position I had jumped high enough at the explosion and struck the hood hard enough to depress a crude boomerang shape into the back of my hand. It never actually bled, but wept a bloody fluid. It scabbed over, throbbed for months and left a scar clearly visible two decades later. With the scar comes that persistent question. If something the size of a man’s hand protected my face from battery acid – whose hand was it?

I don’t have answers, but I have repeated a quiet thank you to God many times when I’ve glanced at that small mark on the back of my right hand. I won’t make any claims of miracles or of angels, but just the same, as I struggle with some of the irritations of growing older, I’m very conscious of the blessing of two decades of good eyesight. It seems appropriate to give thanks to God for that.

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