“Heroes always have their scars. Some you can see, some you read about later on.”
Royal Navy British flag officer, Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, was the first Duke of Bronte. During the wars of Napoleon, he demonstrated decisive leadership and strategic judgment proven through his countless victories. Vice-Admiral Nelson had world acclaim. The United Kingdom saw him as a transcendent figure, comparing him to George Washington, George Patton, and Ulysses S. Grant.
While fighting the Santa Cruz de Tenerife battle, the 35-year-old leader suffered battle scars and the permanent loss of sight in one eye, and later at the age of 40, one of his arms completely severed. In 1805, during the Battle of Trafalgar, Horatio Nelson was fatally wounded by a French sharpshooter.
The valiant hero’s image was captured on canvas by master artists who painted a scarless Nelson, hiding the various battle scars. Those who idolized Nelson ignored the scars. In recent years, one of these portraits was restored to its original condition, capturing the real Horatio Nelson in all his glory. The artist Leonardo Guzzardi did the portrait in 1799. You will see the scars, a missing eyebrow, a bloodshot eye, and a missing arm if you look closely.
Lord Horatio Nelson’s badges of honor had been covered up with paint by a previous artist. The painting, currently for sale, was commissioned for restoration by Philip Mould, a British art dealer. He said, “Seeing the scar emerge was a remarkable moment – Nelson the human replaced the more heroic projection.”
Interestingly, Philip Mould referred to the restoration of Lord Nelson’s portrait as “reversed” plastic surgery. The hero’s uncovered scars told a story not only of his battles and losses but of bravery and tenacious leadership. Nelson’s complete story is now seen and heard through scars, a missing eyebrow, and limb. Today, he is one of the most infamous leaders in the history of Britain.
“Never be ashamed of a scar. It simply means you were stronger than whatever tried to hurt you.” (Unknown)
My story in the scars.
When I was a child, I was shoved into a radiator, piercing my forehead, losing a mass of blood. I did not think I would survive. Decades later, I still remember that dreadful night with deep sadness and grief. It is painful to look in the mirror at times and remember the humiliation. My joy is knowing that I am loved by a merciful God who protected me despite what happened to me.
Contemporary artist group Point of Grace’s hit song, Heal the Wound, captures the emotion and pain of wounds that mar the body and soul, revealing God’s undying love and mercy:
“Heal the wound but leave the scar, a reminder of how merciful You are. I am broken, torn apart, take the pieces of this heart, and heal the wound but leave the scar.”
There is hope in the scars.
Jesus knows and feels our pain. The Wounded Healer willingly became sin, enduring shame and scorn, physical assault, and battery to save the world from sin. The incarnate Savior “who gave himself as a ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:6), canceled a debt you and I could never repay.
The scars proved to his disciples that, indeed, it was he, transfigured and resurrected. He said, “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have” (Luke 24:39). Still, His disciples were in shock and disbelief. I suppose walking through a wall was not enough for them. However, Thomas doubted until he put his finger inside Jesus’ hands and in his side. “My Lord and my God!", was his cry (John 20:26-28).
There will only be one in Heaven with scars.
In heaven, Jesus will be the only one with scars. I often wonder, why didn’t God remove his scars? These scars are beautiful defects. They remind you and me of what we used to be, how we overcame the perils, bruises, and transgressions in our own lives, even though we may want to paint over or airbrush our scars away. One day, the Master Artist will remove our scars and transform our bodies without a trace of injury, sickness, or abuse.
Monsignor Charles Pope said it best: “These wounds are a dignity, not a deformity, a sign of love not of loss, an indication of obedience not of onerousness. Through His wounds the Lord can say, “Here is what the world did to me, and yet I live. Here is the cost of your redemption and the lavishness of my love.”
I can’t imagine what it will be like to see and touch the nail-scarred hands that will welcome me home someday.
Copyright 2020, William S. Barnett
Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson by Leonardo Guzzardi portrait, Wikipedia
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