The Beauty of Scars

8:32 AMHeather

As I mentioned last week, I was able to spend the day with a sweet friend I've known since we were eleven.  Oh the memories that have flooded my mind as I think back through this day together.  Jennifer and I were big on Sandi Patti and Psalty praise albums.  Albums, mind you.  Not tapes.  Not CD's.  No, those vinyl albums.  Can you say children of the 80's?  I can remember going to an Amy Grant concert together, as well as a Carmen concert.  We had upteen sleep overs and logged miles upon miles cruising Key Avenue in our high school days in Lampasas.  Jennifer's grandparents attended my dad's church, and our parents were friends, too.  These memories bring a smile to my face, and the fact that I could spend time with Jennifer again brought a smile to my heart.  

During our conversation, Jennifer let me know that a dear family friend of theirs had died of cancer.  In his 40's.  Way too young.  Knowing how close he was to Jennifer's family, I felt saddened.  Jennifer paused and said that she knows I can understandShe asked how it is for me now.  Nearly twenty-three years after I lost my dad.  Who was also in his 40's.

I sat quietly for a moment, pondering how to sum it up. How could I express the journey of grief, this far down the road?  How could I encourage my friend traveling the same road, many years behind me?  For the first time, a word picture came to mind.  Something that sums it up as best as I could ever hope to.  
 
I told Jennifer that at this point in grief, there's more sweet than bitter in the bittersweetness of the loss.  The hard edge of grief has faded.  The shock.  The anger.  The numbness.  I'll always miss him.  I'll always wish he was here.  I'll always have a void in the space where he should be.  But, now--it's like a scar more than a bleeding wound.  The jagged edges of pain have healed a bit.  The gushing of blood has stopped.  Some healing has occurred in time.  And in it's place is a scar.  A battle scar.  Showing the places where I've survived.  Telling a story of pain, suffering, and gradually, a story of healing.  The scar will never leave me.  Nor would I want it to.  Because I once considered it ugly.  And glaring.  And debilitating.  Repulsive, even.  Now, I see a beauty there.  Because the scar tells the world of the hard journey of pain that has been survived.  It tells of the beauty of resilience and hope and grieving forward.  When others begin to show off their own scars in that comparison game of show and tell, I have something to show, too.  I, too, can join in that conversation.  I can pull back the sleeve and say, "See here?  It also tells a story.  It tells MY story. I've been wounded, too.  And I found hope and was carried to a place of healing."

I think of concentration camp survivors and the numbers tattooed on their forearms.  Tattoos that could be removed, if so desired.  But, in countless interviews, I've seen these brave men and women pull back their sleeve and point to the number and say, "Don't forget!  Don't forget the pain and the suffering and the horror.  Don't forget the survival and the strength and the courage of those so branded."  

No.  We should not forget our journeys of pain.  Our woundedness.  Our bleeding.  Our heart wrenching cries.  And the hope that gradually seeps in, binding up the wounds.  

He heals the brokenhearted and 
binds up their wounds.
Psalm 147:3

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by 
his wounds we are healed.
Isaiah 53:5 

Indeed, no pain or suffering or wound is too big or too difficult for the salve of Jesus' love, poured in generous amounts.  He carries us through our journeys of pain.  He made a way to grant hope for the wounded.  Hope for a better day.  Hope of an eternity with no more suffering, no more tears.  He could, in his infinite power and wisdom, remove all traces of our sufferings.  He could, in one spoken word, remove any glimpse of even the worst scar.  But he doesn't.  

Because our scars tell a story.  To those who are wounded after us.  To those who need to hear that their bleeding will stop.  Their jagged edges of pain will close up.  Healing will come.  They will someday trace their footprints through the valleys and the pits through the scars they will someday hold dear.  They will eventually pull up their heart sleeves and look in wonder to see what they have survived.  And they will themselves be encouraged, as they show off their scars to encourage others.  

I think this is why Jesus' hands still bore the holes of the nails after his resurrection.  Oh, he conquered death.  The matter of these wounds were no match for God's sovereignty.  But, no.  They were there for a reason.  Jesus' nail scarred hands gave hope to those who witnessed them first hand after his resurrection and before his ascension.  They tell us of a story of love and pain and suffering and victory.  The victory that eventually comes, only after a season of feeling defeated.  The victory that carries with it a strength and a courage and a depth in our faith that could not have existed, were it not for the wounds.   The sweet victory of scars, of healing where pain once ruled.  

Oh, bloggy friends, if you are enduring a season of woundedness and pain and suffering, may you be encouraged.  The bleeding will subside.  The heartache and despair will lessen.  Gradually.  Your season of suffering will usher in a season of healing.  You must press on.  Grieve forward.  Be mad, if you need to be.  Rail against your Creator and wrestle it through with him.  And know this.  Beautiful, victorious scars will come to replace that fresh wound.  You will have a story of survival that God will use.  If you'll let him.   Where you see ugly and senseless suffering right now, you will someday see the beauty of a scar that tells your story.  And you'll proudly roll up your sleeves and tell your story, pointing to that line where your broken heart was bound.  And hope slipped in to eventually chase away the darkness.

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