Driving into work this morning, I noticed my scar on my right forearm is more visibly defined with the nice tan I’ve got going on. I chuckled to myself thinking back to the summer of 1999. I was so excited that I finally got a new bike – a twelve speed for my twelfth birthday. I begged and pleaded my Grandmother to let me go with the older kids from the neighborhood on a long bike ride and after the millionth promise to be extra careful, away I went. Within the hour, I trudged the whole way home holding my arm that I had cut open when I fell off my bike. “That’s going to leave a nice scar..” she said as she cleaned my arm and dried my tears.
Scars. They seem to be the by-product of life. Some of our scars are physical; others are emotional or mental. But if we are honest, we all have some. Some we can show off to others and even laugh about their origins. Others are so painful to discuss or even reveal – we do our best to hide them from sight or even our own memory. Some may affect our lives for a day or a week or a month. Others are life-changing. I have a combination of both. I have come to appreciate the scars (physical & emotional) I have acquired in my first twenty-six years.
Scars reveal a past hurt. Scars hide a previous pain. They normally point to a regretful experience and a painful past. Some scars are the result of a true “accident”. Other scars are because of foolish decisions.
As I look back at some of my scars, I have come to appreciate them in a new light. That appreciation has not come easily or quickly. Whereas before I might have tried to make up a story to explain the scar’s existence, now I just tell the story “as is.” Whereas before I might have tried to cover up the mark and avoid talking about it, now I embrace it as part of “me.” Some people, depending on their scar or the pain that caused it, will not be able to reach my same level of transparency. Others, over time, might come to a point where they are even thankful for the experience that caused the scar. For the most part, I am at that stage. I am grateful for the experiences and their scars as it has taught me some valuable lessons I could not have learned without them.
I tend to think my scars exist in order to teach me a greater lesson. Sometimes I wonder if some of my scars are not for me as much as they are for others. Seeing that God’s ways are not my ways and His thoughts are not my thoughts (Isaiah 55), God could allow me to receive a scar for the sole benefit of others.
Regardless, for the benefit of others, or a lesson I needed to learn for myself, here are a few lessons that my scars have taught me:
My scars remind me of where I have been.
Depending on the scar and it’s cause, this can be an extremely painful reminder, particularly if the scar is from someone else’s selfish act. But I have found it is a good reminder (from time to time) as I can better appreciate where I am today. Those who deny the existence of the pain that caused the scar or the scar itself cannot ultimately heal like they need to. Too often we try to cover the scar instead of embracing it, to our own detriment. At the very least, we need to work through the pain and do what we can to reduce the scar tissue.
My scar reminds me to be careful in the future.
Every scar comes with a lesson. For a burn mark on a toddler’s hand, the lesson is do not touch a hot stove. The physical scars usually communicate a very clear lesson like – do not jump the wooden handmade ramp that everyone else is doing with their big kid bikes, when you have had your new twelve speed for just a few days. The emotional or mental scars may be harder to discern what the lesson is. They can certainly take more time to uncover. Even so, there is always something we can learn from our scars and therefore it is always worth the time invested to discover it. Take the time to do the research on what caused it and what needs to happen so you don’t experience any more.
Each scar helps me empathize with others who have similar scars.
I wear the scar of battling infertility and I can empathize with those who are in the midst of receiving their infertility scar. If I have the scar of losing a child or losing a job or losing a relationship, I can help others through the same painful loss. There is a great power in empathy. There is a special bond that is created when you are truly able to relate (experientially) to another person’s pain. The goal with every scar is to eventually get to a point where you can help others deal with theirs. We are in this life together for a reason. We are our brother’s & sister’s keeper. In that place of comforting others, you often find an unexpected healing in you.
A scar is a sign of healing.
“Every significant wound results in some degree of scarring. A scar results from the biological process of wound repair in the skin and other tissues in the body. Thus, scarring is a natural part of the healing process.” (Thank you, Wikipedia) If there wasn’t a scar, it would still be a wound. The fact that there is a scar reveals that there has been some level of healing. Some of the scars I have experienced have taken me years before I could get in a position to talk about it or help others. Other scars I can talk about relatively quickly. The fact that there is a scar is a good sign. The painful experience is over. Healing has begun.
Though most of us would not have chosen many of the negative experiences we have gone through, as we look back we can see some good that has come out of it. God has the unique ability to make an ugly scar beautiful (Romans 8:28).
Perhaps the next time you look at your own scars, you will have a different perspective. Perhaps one day you will have the courage to embrace a particularly painful scar or the reason for its existence. Maybe there is a lesson for you in the scar.. and maybe the lesson is for someone else. Maybe even one day you will get to the point of helping others handle theirs. Your scar, though created by pain, could end up being something very beautiful to behold.
On the night that Jesus was resurrected from the dead, He appeared to His disciples (John 20). After greeting them, the very first thing He did was show them His scars – the scars given to Him as a result of the Cross. The scars on His hands, side & feet were significant as they pointed to an extremely painful past. Jesus could have covered them up. He could have blamed the Romans for scarring the hands that made them. Instead, He chose to show them off because He recognized the purpose behind them. His scars revealed that healing had occurred, not only for His resurrection, but for all – “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)
His hands were scarred so ours don’t have to be. When I get to Heaven, I want to see His scars. After all, without them, I’d never be there.
His scars were visible for a reason. So are yours.