Geneva, Alabama, my hometown, sits at the junction of two rivers so the surrounding earth is one of the last stops for sediment deposits before the rivers flow into the Gulf of Mexico. The soil underneath the whole town is mostly hard, dense red clay.
Our street wasn’t paved for most of my growing up years so, even though we were well inside the city limits, it was like we lived on a back road out in the country. This wasn’t so bad for me. In fact, it was kind of cool when the road grader would come down our street regularly and scrape the uneven places smooth. The clay streets, however, were the bane of my mother’s existence. Ground-in red clay was impossible to remove from clothing. Many days I wore fairly new, clean bobby socks to school that already had evidence of the soil sample I had somehow managed to gather just skipping down the street. Or maybe falling down while climbing on a mound of dirt left by the road grader. And that was just on dry days.
Whenever there was a huge rain, the clay road would develop luscious streams, ditches, and gullies. For a little girl who spent most summers going barefoot, it was a heavenly place to shuffle through and let the wet velvety clay squish between my toes. It was bliss. The rain would not only create the puddles and torrents that I loved, but it also would unearth rubbish and sometimes critters that also seemed to love the ooze. Often crayfish (crawdads) would take up residence after many days of relentless storms.
One hot summer day after a series of “frog-stranglers” as we called downpours, I raced out for my usual trek in the troughs rushing down the street. Barefoot, of course, I shuffled along the red silt stream only to find a large piece of broken glass just below the surface. It sliced through my foot. My blood mingled with the brick-red clay created a dark crimson flow. I ran home, bleeding, crying. The scar that was left behind as the wound healed was visible for a long time, but of course has since faded into the rest of my wrinkles. The memory of the sharp pain is still there though.
Stains. Scars. Mostly signs of something unpleasant that happened in the past.
Brennan Manning from his book Ruthless Truth states: “On the last day, Jesus will look us over not for medals, diplomas, or honors, but for scars.” A great thought. A great hope when you can think that far ahead.
However at times when the scars and stains, even old ones, seem to rise to the surface and bring up old pain, here is what God’s Word says to remember:
“Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
The Apostle Paul wrote:
“For I bear on my body the scars that show I belong to Jesus.” (Galatians 6:17)
Perhaps the most comforting of all is from the unknown writer of Hebrews:
“We will find grace to help us when we need it.” (Hebrews 4:16)