The Beauty in Our Scars
+JMJ+ Scars. We all have them. I think the first time I became truly aware of the impact of scars was the year I was diagnosed and treated for eye cancer (ocular melanoma) in my right eye. Several weeks after surgery and radiation, my eyelid became very itchy one day. I scratched at it and suddenly found myself staring at a huge clump of eyelashes in my hand. I vividly remember staring in the mirror, not believing what had just happened, and staring at this suddenly visibly-changed person. It was devastating. One might think that after having lived through a rape and the loss of a brother, this experience shouldn't (in the grand scheme of things) be such a big deal. It was for me, though. So much had already been taken from me and it was this seemingly small thing that really made me come crashing down into despair. I've never been what one might consider to be “a knockout” and, up until then, my eyes had always been the one feature people complimented me on. It was the feature I liked best about myself. Living with eye cancer, my bad eye has become slightly droopy, my eye color has became less vibrant, about ¼ of my vision is gone, and of course there is now a gaping bald spot. At that time, after everything I had already endured, it felt like an unbearable humiliation. Almost 15 years later, I still struggle. More scars have accumulated since then, physical as well as emotional. Truth be told, I sometimes stare at my scars in the mirror in disgust and think how unsightly they are. I know, I know – vanity! Hey, I'm human and no one is perfect! However, despite my struggle, I am often reminded that we all have scars. We all carry some evidence of the suffering we have endured. Some scars may be clearly visible to the world. Others may be visible to just us. Others scars are the ones left on our hearts and in our minds. Some scars are still painful. Other scars, while healed, may not be “painful” per se but serve as reminders of our past crosses. Personally, I have several reminders – not only my missing eyelashes but also a large scar on my abdomen from my appendectomy from when I was 11 or 12, and several scars in the area of my left shoulder and heart from the various procedures that have been performed for my heart and ICD. There is a visible lump where my ICD has been placed and I can see its outline. It looks a little creepy to me, but I am grateful that it's there. That creepy-looking box saved my life last year! I also still live with less visible physical side-effects of the sexual trauma I endured years ago – various “womanly afflictions” that cause me great physical discomfort and pain. Trauma, after all, takes up residence in your entire being. It affects all of you – physical abuse affects you emotionally, emotional abuse affects you physically, and so forth and so on. However, my scars also serve as a reminder of how far I have come and how much I have been healed by the grace of God. There is beauty in our scars. There is beauty in our brokenness. There is beauty in knowing that our scars have value. Scars are actually kind of neat when you think about it! Think about how our skin comes together to heal a wound. It's amazing! In the same way, our hearts and minds can be healed and delivered from the darkness that has bound us. While I am still learning to love and appreciate my scars (especially the physical ones that I struggle with), there is a certain beauty about them. They remind me of God's goodness and love. They remind me that He is a healer and that He has been with me through everything. My emotional and spiritual scars not visible to the world remind me of God's great grace that has carried me through the dark times. I am also reminded of the good people who have helped to guide me, often by sharing their own scars. Although they do not need to define us, each of our scars (big or small) tells a story. While some of us may struggle to find the beauty in them at first, we can ask God for the grace to see in them His great love, mercy, and goodness. We can ask for God's gift of acceptance that our eyes may be opened to how far we have come and how much we have healed. “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 14:3 Isn't it beautiful that our scars also have the unique ability to help others? No matter what our scars may be – whether they are from sin or pain from no fault of our own – God has the power to use our scars for good. We have the ability to invite God into our hearts and into our wounds that He may heal them and make them radiantly beautiful. I still cover the bald spot on my eye with eyeliner and I'm fairly certain that most people never notice. Honestly, I think about it way too much. The other scars on my body aren't as big of an issue as those areas are usually covered up in public (for modesty purposes) and so I usually forget about them. As far as the emotional and spiritual scars, I do my best to smile even if I'm having an emotionally difficult day and am screaming inside. We all struggle with something. However, by the grace of God and with some help with some really wonderful people, I've come a long way and I've realized that the people who truly love me don't care about whether or not I have a full set of “flashy lashes.” They don't care whether or not my body is flawless. None of the superficial stuff matters because they accept me – scars and all. My eyelashes sure won't get me to Heaven one day, and they certainly won't make me a holier person or a better wife, mother, daughter, or friend! What's most important is what I do with those scars and how I allow God to work through them. Some people wonder why I share so much of my story and so much of my pain. I assure you, there is no fame or fortune attached to my blogging or my upcoming book. It is indeed humbling to revisit and share certain parts of my life. So, why do it? Simply put, we are all called to do something different in our lives and this is what I feel called to do, to share some of my scars with others who are suffering from similar wounds. God never promised that He would call us to something easy, but He does promise His help and grace to aid us in accomplishing whatever tasks He sets before us. I don't want people to look at “me” but, rather, to look at God at work in this ordinary, perfectly average, and imperfect human being. I want people to see God in my scars! It is God working through our scars that brings hope to others. He can truly be glorified through any hardship that we endure. Our scars remind us of the battles we have fought. They are beautiful to God and we can bring others to God through our scars. Remember that Jesus invited St. Thomas (“doubting Thomas”) to touch His wounds. Consider Our Lord's nail-pierced hands and feet, the wound in His side, the wounds of the scourging all over His sacred body, the crown of thorns that pierced His precious head...they bring us hope! The wounds of His sacrifice redeem us. They bring us hope, peace, and freedom.
“By His wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5
Your scars are a part of you and, even if you don't realize it yet, you are precious, you are loved, and you are beautiful! If it be His will, God will use your hurt to bless others. Your scars are proof that God heals and God will heal you. All you need to do is allow Him into your heart and into your scars.