The theme at Velvet Ashes this week is scars and the idea came from an interview I heard last fall with a pastor. She was asked what illustrations she uses in her preaching and said she preaches out of her scars, not her wounds.
And this phrase stuck to my soul.
There is a place for sharing from our wounds, but I get her point that for public teaching there is something to be said for where we’ve been. Not where we are.
I’ve known for months I would be sharing the final post of the week. I thought I’d write about how “scars don’t have to define us, but can refine us.” Michele said it more elegantly on Monday. Then I wanted to talk about how we can use our scars to comfort others. Laura beat me to it and I love what she shared. I think you can guess what my next idea was; Jessica shared about our past coming with us overseas and the role of doubt, scars, and the upside down spiritual world. Yes, yes, yes.
I’ll admit I had a small pity party. God, I’ve been thinking about wounds and scars for months and wanted to swoop in at the end of the week and be all shiny and glittery and impressive. You know. For YOUR sake, not mine.
“Apparently I wanted each author to say what she said.” God smiled, “So listen to what I have for youto say.” Okay God, I’m listening.
So much of our wounding is laced with shame. Whether we’ve “brought the wounding on ourselves” or had something done to us. This leads to shame about our scars and what we think they convey.
It may be that you are not picking up on something as quickly as others. It may be that your body is the source of shame due to disease, an eating disorder, an inability to carry a baby to full term, or a weight that’s “not right” for your culture. It may be a sexual history, educational history, financial history, or family history that has introduced shame to your scars.
Shame and isolation are two of the oldest tricks in The Book. From early on, the Accuser of our souls whispered one of two lies:
- What’s happened to you is so awful no one will want to come near you. OR
- What’s happened to you is nothing compared to what happened to her, or them, or there.
What wounded you is legitimate, no matter how big or how small. It’s not a contest. God is not repulsed by you, what’s happened to you, or what you’ve done. He loves you and wants to heal you. Not so he can “use your story.” No, just because he loves you. It’s the enemy who sees you in distorted lights. Who says you’re not fit.
Jesus gets shame. I know dying on the cross was more pain than I can imagine, but it’s the being naked in front of all those people that also gets me. He was ultimately shamed so that our shame will no longer isolate us.
My hope for you is that your zest for life (another way of saying the Imago Dei, beloved image bearer) will over ride your shame (another way of saying death).
Years ago I had an on-going butt boil that was humiliating. My behind is not my favorite asset and I lived in a part of the world where behinds were, oh say, half the size of mine and not neon white. The first 700 times I had to drop my pants, it was awful. And then I decided I was going to stop being embarrassed. It was what it was. I did not ask to have the problem in this location and I was not going to let it get in the way of me living.
I think a total of about 20 friends and acquaintances ended up changing bandages on my behind. It was a busy travel season and I showed up at more than one door announcing I’d need help changing my dressing, oh, did I mention it was on my behind? Let’s say, it’s was humbling, but the more often I did it, the easier it became.
But I get it. After the dear problem (and this was a couple of years into it reoccurring) turned into a fistula, I needed two more surgeries in the U.S. Between them I got a rash from the rubbing of the bandages. I thought my humiliation couldn’t sink any lower and the doctor kindly said, “No worries, I see lots of bottoms.”
“Yes, but I only have ONE. This is my one bottom and I am embarrassed. There is visible and painful proof I somehow didn’t care for it better!”
Shame will say, “Too bad you didn’t have a nice abscess on your arm, that’s more respectable and can be talked about in the light of day. Too bad you made it worse.” Shame goes for the jugular.
God says, “Dear child, see your scars as an offering.”
An offering that changes the story of isolation to a story of connection.
An offering that says though the story may detour through Good Friday, resurrection and life are your heritage.
An offering that says, “Me too.”
Shame is not your story. Instead we have scars to offer one another, at the right time, in the right context, for His glory and though it may not always seem, our good.
P.S. If you’re deep in woundedness, work towards healing, but don’t force it. Pain makes us so uncomfortable we like to jump over it, dodge under, pretend it’s not there, or get stuck wallowing in it. The scar will come, may the Lord right now be building a hedge of protection against bitterness and shame. Amen.
(A version of this first appeared on Velvet Ashes)