I am the youngest of 9 children who was born to a stubborn, legalistic, sometimes abusive father and a compliant, go-along-to-get-along mother. One taught me fear, the other to have little confidence. Through them the Lord taught me the difference between a frightening fear and a reverential fear and in whom I can and should place my confidence.
Being the youngest child, I was thought of as the “baby of the family”. That phrase was sometimes meant, (most often taken), literally. I grew up believing I was smaller, weaker, dumber, and not as ‘good’ as the others. The Lord taught me through these scars that we are all in the same place apart from him. We are all small and weak, not so smart and not so ‘good’ without him…and, more importantly, in him we are all equal.
I have been used, abused, taken for granted, and taken advantage of. I have been labeled unworthy of God’s favor. I have had the faults of a church tied to my back, been sent away as a scapegoat, then marked as one who had ‘fallen away’. This experience caused many scars and some served to reinforce those from childhood: “You’re not good enough”, “You’re too weak”, “No one really loves you”. I learned again that apart from him we are all users, abusers, and seek our own advantage. We are all unworthy of his favor and have all, at one time or another in one circumstance or another, fallen away – or at the very least, taken a step back from the Lord out of fear or confusion or pride. There is not one of us who is righteous…apart from him. Most importantly, the Lord taught me that my faith is to be placed in him alone and not in any man or organization. What may seem like falling away to some is often falling forward into a greater plan he has for our lives.
I have had physical injuries from osteomyelitis and lung cancer to broken bones and surgeries. They were real. I did not spend my time trying to convince my self that there was no injury and claim that I was healed as I was lying in excruciating pain in my hospital bed. I can tell you from experience that pain is real and most medications only take the edge off…or at the very least make you not care that you’re in so much pain. The Lord taught me through these physical scars, especially the cancer, that there is very little in this life that is worth fretting over and so much more to be gained by being kind and compassionate and giving.
Scars we bear on our physical bodies can be used as great object lessons – ways to begin conversations about larger issues. There are also scars that we do not wear so proudly on our skin – scars that are hidden from view and revealed only in the words we say and the choices we make. I call these “heartscars” and they are created by wrongs done to us or experiences that caused confusion, fear, and regret. The only way to find healing for these kinds of wounds and release the blessings that they hold is through forgiveness. Much like in the physical, our wounded hearts can heal provided we don’t remove the protective covering. Forgiveness is this covering and when allowed to complete its work it will reveal a scar that will be a blessing to be shared instead of a bitter root burrowing deeper.
All too often we are like scab-pickers, always wanting to know the why something happened and who did it. We rehearse over and over again in our minds the events, each time removing a layer here or lifting an edge there to see if there are any answers. Each time we pick a new covering must be formed and the wound becomes bigger and deeper and takes longer to heal. Some wounds are very deep and may take a long time to heal but we must remind ourselves that forgiveness is choice and not a feeling. As we allow forgiveness to do its work, the healing will come and we will have a heartscar worth sharing. Jesus did no less as he was hanging on the cross. Not only did he endure physical pain which left scars in his flesh, but he bore wounds of the heart as well. The actions of his disciples leading up to that moment, and then to have his own Father forsake him, left wounds deeper and more lasting than any we could survive. But, among his last words were those asking God to forgive those who did not know what they were doing. He chose to forgive which lead to a miraculous healing three days later. He had scars in his flesh to prove where he had been healed, and scars on his heart to show how much he had forgiven. Those scars echo through time, rending hearts and saving souls. The scars we share may not have that profound an effect on the course of history but they do have the potential to sway a struggling, weary, wandering soul and give them hope.
Scars are meant to be shared…not hidden.