(Originally written in 2011)
Yesterday the kids and I were talking about scars. It started when John pointed one out on his arm and said, “I still have this scar.” I told him it might fade, but the scar would always be there if he looked hard enough. This got us looking all over our arms and legs and talking about the scars and where they came from. Some of the stories were cool, in a gross out sort of way – bones sticking through skin, cuts from an Africa adventure, and a weird burn scar on Shawn’s arm from a lawn mower that the nurse thought he had done purposely for me because it looked like a heart! Others were more silly or embarrassing – the pencil points stuck in Anna’s head and John’s leg, or the numerous shaving scars from when I was a teenager (Seems I was always in a hurry!) There were a few that were not shown, but talked about – the scars from C-sections or gallbladder surgeries. Shawn also has a scar from his cleft lip surgeries all through childhood.
Scars are kind of cool how they have a story to tell. Some are good – life giving or life saving even. Some changed quality of life. Some are from the everyday bumps and bruises that we get in this life. Regardless, they all have a story, and they all are a part of us from that point on.
In the evening we were at church and we were talking about the job of the Holy Spirit. Pastor Chris was writing on the board and putting people’s answers up to the question of, “What makes a Christ follower different?” At the top was, “Forgiveness” and underneath was “Love your enemies.” I was staring at those two things and it clicked in my mind that forgiveness is really the key, because if you forgive, the person is no longer your enemy. Not if it is something from the past, anyway. (An ongoing forgiveness is a different thing.) The consequences of the situation may still be there, but like those scars, they will fade. And like those scars, they each have a story, and that story helps to shape us.
I was thinking about the times in my life when I have had to forgive. There have been little situations – misunderstandings, hurtful words, etc. They are like those little scars that we only notice if we look hard. They are still there and have helped us be molded into who we are today. Maybe I learned how to be a better friend because of it, or I was reminded that the only perfect in this world is God. Whatever the outcome, it has become part of me. The bigger things – abuse, betrayal, etc – those are the big scars that stand out and sometimes make us self conscious. They might be the ones that we would rather have plastic surgery on and forget. Yet even if they are covered in makeup or new skin, they are still part of our body and have affected us. We can try to forget, ignore the repercussions, or look the other way, but ultimately their existence is still very real. And the consequences are a permanent part of our outlook.
But – just like those scars that people see and we can’t hide – those stories of our lives are ones that need to be told and shared. They are the ones that are used to affect people, to help them learn their own forgiveness, and to have hope in a real future. When people with a cleft lip (or someone who has gone though it) see Shawn’s scar, they are instantly a friend-someone who understands and can bond. When they find out he has made a life of speaking in public, it is an encouragement and hope. The same happens with those emotional scars. When people hear about overcoming abuse and see a life lived in freedom and fullness, they gravitate towards the one who is victorious in it and have their own hope.
Not anythings new, by any means, Not even close to a new analogy. But one that was sticking in my mind all day yesterday. Thank you, Lord, for my life – the good and the bad; the scars and the new healing.