Noticing, Day 7: Scandal of Particularity (a HASH post)

noticing It’s a phrase I met in a book by Madeleine L’Engle. (I can’t remember which one.) Apparently, before she used it, it was already in theological use. Various online dictionaries define it as “the difficulty of regarding a single individual man (Jesus) as being the savior of all men.” They tell me it is a translation from the German, Ärgernis der Einmaligkeit, but they do not tell me who the German was who coined it first. They tell me that some have used it to criticize Christianity, while other theologians have adopted it as a name for the way God makes himself known to us.

The Mark, by Kateri Aris Tolo

The Mark, by Kateri Aris Tolo

I expand it past its strict theological sense, and see it — this scandal of particularity — everywhere. I bear the mark of scandal on my face as Hester Prynne did in that scarlet letter “A” upon her chest — both signify extravagant love. But, while her mark was meant for shame, mine is glory. While her lover hid himself and would have hidden all signs of his love if possible, my Lover proclaims His name from the mountain peaks and placed the mark on me Himself — not in one bold stamp of ownership, but gradually, deliberately, one particular eyelash at a time, until the row of white above my left eye was complete.

I knew that He did it, even then, when I was eight years old, but I liked to share the dermatologist’s diagnosis — vitiligo, if you want to know — rather than that simpler answer, and was quick to add that the doctor said it might go away. For though our culture claims to value uniqueness, would they not call it cruelty to mark a little child so, to make her face different from all other faces, to subject her to the incessant questioning of tactless peers? They would be slow to believe you if you said it was a mark of love.

Love. Scandalously particular, selecting this lash and not that to lose its pigment, leaving, even nineteen years later, nine dark lashes amid the light ones. I am struck with His ownership when I look in the mirror, forced to acknowledge that not even my face is my own, that I am a peculiar people, an elect exile, imperfect, but graced.

His scandalously particular love works in other lives, too. I’ve watched it. Selecting one boy from among so many to drive off a bridge, to live in a wheelchair, while so many others drive sure and walk strong. Filling weekends with weddings, yet leaving some severed, alone. Selecting one family for fruitful multiplication, selecting another couple to ache, empty-armed, for children. Carefully ordaining the pleasures and the pains, arranging them so that they could only have come from Him.

God wastes nothing: wounds nor blessings. In both cases it is scandalous love. In the blessings, the scandal is that He gives them to people who deserve nothing good at all. And the scandal of the wounds is the way that He makes them beautiful. The wounds also are gifts.

The glorified Christ Jesus bears the marks of wounds upon His hands, His feet, His sides: the marks of the scandalous love by which this individual Man — who was God — became the Savior of all mankind, the scandalous love by which God makes Himself known to us, becoming one of us and wearing our pain. His wounds make us beautiful, and when He wounds us, He makes those wounds beautiful, too. Because, so often, He uses our wounds to make Himself known.

Yet still we turn to God, indignant at each fresh injury, large or small, and want to know what He is about, hurting us. And I, with the mark on my face which has never given me physical pain, and which some have called a “beauty mark” — I feel inadequate to say how His more violent marks will become beautiful. But still I know that they must, and as I bear witness to His making of me, I bear witness to His scandalous love in all particulars, others’ as well as mine.

He is scandalously particular. I praise Him.

©2014 by Stacy Nott

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