This may sound kind of weird, but the scars on our bodies are like archaeological records of our lives. Each one tells a story.
After many surgeries and skinned-knee mishaps, my right knee is the anatomical equivalent of Egypt’s “Valley of the Kings.” Except there aren’t any fortunes to be found among these scarred ruins—just evidence of fortunes spent.
I added yet another scar and story to that particular “archaeological site” recently when I banged up my knee again. (Don’t even ask.) While nursing that wound, I remembered skinning up a much younger version of that same knee while learning to ride a two-wheeled bike.
When I was a kid, learning to ride a bike without training wheels was an essential rite of passage. You were nobody in my neighborhood until you could cruise the sidewalks on a “real” bike. Mastering that skill before entering first grade was a social necessity.
I think I was four or five when I decided it was time to ditch the training wheels. My father did the obligatory dad thing and promised to run alongside to keep me upright and help me navigate the four turns I’d face going around our block.
The flaw in that plan was that my dad wasn’t a runner, so by the time we hit the third turn, I’d left him in the dust. I hadn’t gotten the hang of turning or stopping yet, so rather than wobble out into an intersection where I might get hit by a car, I chose to steer my bike into a telephone pole.
The scar on my knee from that little incident reminds me that it can be hard, painful and scary to learn new things, but experience has also taught me it’s usually worth whatever it costs.
In Philippians 4, the Apostle Paul talks about having learned “the secret of being content in any and every situation.” The wording indicates it was something Paul learned over time, even as the Bible tells us he was running into “telephone poles” like shipwrecks, beatings, imprisonments, hunger, thirst, and sleepless nights.
Paul’s “archaeological dig” of scars probably covered his entire body, each scar representing a story that could easily have crushed his faith and spirit had he not learned how to practice what he preached: to always rejoice in the Lord, regardless of his circumstances.
He rejoiced in the eternal future God promised; in the ultimate victory His Savior would win; in God’s constant presence and provision; and in the spread of the Gospel that had so radically transformed his life for the better.
Because of all that, Paul could be content even in a cold and dirty prison cell.
I’m ashamed to say I’ve sometimes struggled being content in a comfortable home surrounded by plenty of everything. But the struggle gets easier as I learn not to base my contentment on my circumstances, but on unchanging truths like God’s character, His love for me, and the glorious, exciting, fun, unending future He’s planned for all who believe in His Son, Jesus.
Contentment wouldn’t have to be learned if it came naturally or if our circumstances were perfect. But it doesn’t come naturally and our lives aren’t perfect, so if we want to be content, we’re going to have to learn how, just like Paul did, through all kinds of stuff.
You know, maybe I was wrong when I wrote above that there aren’t any treasures to be found among the “scarred ruins” on my knee. If I let all the scars on my body, my heart and my life teach and grow me, they can free me from the limitations of mere circumstantial joy and lead me to a rare and priceless treasure, indeed: contentment … in any and every situation.
Mary Ann Crum (maryanncrum.com) lives in Abbeville and is the author of two books, “A Giggle Goes a Long Way” and “Live.Learn.Laugh!” She can be reached at email@example.com.