We all have scars. Some are small, and some of us have large scars. It can be from an accident or a surgery. Many of us have scars you cannot see. They are inside us. They are emotional scars from trauma and past experiences in our lives.
My question for you is what do you do with those scars? Do you hide them? Do you show them for sympathy? Do you beautify them? Or do you show them for what they are, and for what can be shared and learned from them?
I know of several people who have scars. Here is a short list:
1. John O’Leary – I met John a few years ago, and he is one of my heroes. When John was
a child, he was playing with fire and gasoline (not a good combination for anyone). It caused an explosion in his family’s garage, threw John across the garage, and burned 99% of his body. He had less that a 1% chance to survive the night. Instead, John survived, with the help of some special people in his life. Today he speaks around the world, has authored a book, and is an inspiration to many who think they cannot do more than they are doing.
2. Joni Eareckson Tada – a swimming accident when a teenager left Joni a quadriplegic. She has published many books sharing her story of healing and redemption, and she also has a worldwide ministry helping the disabled.
3. Dave Pelzer – a survivor of extreme physical and psychological abuse at the hands of his mother. At age twelve, a psychologist said he was not going to make it—his foster mother and social worker said, “Don’t you listen to that trash, because if you can survive all that you did, young man, I expect greatness from you.” Dave is an author of many books on survival of abuse, and a public speaker.
These are just a few examples of hundreds, probably thousands or more well-known people who have overcome adversity in their lives, have written books, and are on a public speaking circuit.
But what about us ordinary people? People who don’t seem to have a dramatic story? Or maybe we do, but don’t recognize it.
I have both physical and emotional scars. The first physical scar I received is when I had my appendix removed. That was in the good old days when they made a six-inch incision on a six-year-old, and the hospital stay was for five days. That scar is still visible. My largest physical scar is when I had exploratory surgery for my tubal pregnancy (See “Lessons Learned At Death’s Door). That scar runs completely down the middle of my torso.
You cannot see my emotional scars. It took years for me to be able to talk about them. One day a friend of mine suggested I read the book, “Your Scars are Beautiful to God: Finding Peace and Purpose in the Hurts of Your Past.”
How do I tell my story? Mine is of an adult who walked right into the dysfunction. Why would a smart young lady do this?
I married right out of college, and two years later started a family—one child after another, and in a span of six years, I gave birth to four beautiful little boys. There were some incidents in my married life that made me feel unwanted—even abandoned. In my deep feeling of abandonment and rejection, I divorced my husband of 10 years.
As a single mom with four little boys, I had no support system. I had no girlfriends, and I had no men in my life. Family members took interest in my children but not in me. My loneliness was SCREAMING. When I met Pete (name changed to protect the innocent and the guilty), I was at my most vulnerable. Even though I could feel his dysfunction, my loneliness was screaming so loud—he was better than nothing. When he was sober, he could be nice. From that point on, my life dropped, and dropped, and dropped. I put a drunk right smack dab in the middle of my household with my four wonderful boys.
I was abused, and I let him do it. Who else would love me? He would apologize and say how he was there to protect me, and I would believe this. But while I am living this nightmare, my mom is praying for me. She is loving me in whatever way she could, when I felt the rest of the family let me go. I thought they were disappointed with me and didn’t want to have anything to do with me. That would bring me down even more. It made me all the more lonely. Any dysfunctional person who was nice to me, even if they were taking advantage of me, I allowed to invade my life, cross my boundaries, step on my values, until I could no longer define my values or recognize my boundaries. Then it was anything goes. It is good that I did not have the desire for drugs and alcohol, because, they could have brought me to my death.
It happened one day driving home from work. Coming from downtown St. Louis, driving southwest on Interstate 44, I realized the closer I got to home the more stressed and miserable I became. Isn’t my home supposed to be my safe place? Why did I not want to go home?
Healing was hard, but I finally did it. I sent this man packing. He was not the father of my children. I went to years of counseling, and got involved in a 12-step group for codependency. I worked the 12 steps, and to this day I respect anyone who is truly working those steps to find healing in their life. They were a life-saver for me.
Why am I telling you this? I thought I was the only person going through this. I couldn’t talk to anyone. I was too ashamed that I used bad judgment and what others would think of me. Funny how we worry about that, when more than likely they were thinking that my bad judgment was because I am not ending this dysfunctional relationship. I was afraid. I felt completely rejected by everyone, yet I am afraid of their further rejection. That is how denial works.
Do you have scars from a relationship? Do you have scars from substance abuse? Do you have physical scars like John or Joni? Do you have scars from incest or rape, physical abuse, mental abuse, sexual abuse? Maybe you don’t have that deep of scars. Maybe you have been fired from a job, or you are divorced, or your business didn’t survive, or your house was repossessed, or experienced a loss of a loved one?
God can heal us, but we will still have those scars. So, what do we do with them? Do we,
in our shame, for whatever reason, bury that part of our life like it never happened? Are we still in denial? Or do we come to deal with these issues, and know that there are men and women and children going through those same things today. Do we stay silent, and let them suffer also?
Remember how we suffered? Do we really want others to suffer like that? Did I not heal from these wounds? Do I just ignore that these things happened? Do I knowingly let others in the same circumstances and suffer because they think they are totally alone? Could they be too ashamed to tell their story? Do they understand that “the truth shall set us free?”
When a child is learning to walk, they fall. Sometimes they get hurt, but they get up and try again. Why, as adults, do we stop trying after perceived failures? Why do we think our life is over? What have you learned from your scars? What have I learned from mine?
Jesus redeemed us from all our sins, not just some of them. What is sin? It is the disobedience to God. Okay, so we disobeyed. But, Christ will forgive us. He loved each of us so much that he totally sacrificed his life—his blood poured out after his severe beating and hanging–to redeem us—to forgive us—to love us.
We get stuck not forgiving ourselves or loving ourselves. For years shame would creep up and devour me. I would get a flashback of an occurrence I couldn’t get out of my head. I finally turned to God’s word. Psalm 103:12 states, “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” How far is that? One cannot find the other, it’s that far.
I am terrible at memorization of anything, but when the feeling of shame would sweep over me, I would just repeat to myself, “As far as the east is from the west.” I didn’t have to recite the full verse. I knew the ending in my head. When I did this, I remembered that I was punishing myself for something that God has forgiven me for—his sacrifice makes me pure in his eyes. I am his perfect creation. Just as he created in Genesis, God looks at me and says, “This is good.”
What right do I have? Who do I think I am that I cannot forgive myself? God forgives me, Jesus took the beating and death for me, and if I cannot forgive myself, I am not truly accepting the grace that God has given to me by his redemption. What audacity that is for me to think I can hold onto that shame, when the creator of the universe has let it go!
What are your scars? Are you hiding them? Is that person you sit near at work hurting? Or your neighbor? That person next to you at church? Reach out—you will be surprised. Our scars are reminders of the hurt physically or emotionally that has happened in our lives. Make them beautiful again—learn from them—embrace them as part of what has made you the strong person you are today.