Don’t Hide Your Scars (They Tell an Incredible Story)
by: Jim Urban, LPC.
Several years ago at a conference I met and interviewed a young woman I’ll call “Sophie,” who shared with me the story of her facial reconstructive surgery following an abusive relationship with a boyfriend. The story began when she was 18 and met a charming young man who made many grand promises to her, and convinced her to move out of her mother’s home. Her eyes misted as she told of how her heart was filled with so much hope, anticipation, and joy as she made the big decision to move in with him, and start a life together. Barely 3 months passed and that dream turned into a nightmare, and what seemed like love turned out to be one broken person having their damaged ego fed by abusing another person. The story of their relationship ended the night she awoke in the hospital having had her face literally put back together again; however, the story of her strength, recovery, and inspiration to others was only just beginning.
Sophie acknowledged to me that she knew her face was asymmetrical, and that her left eye had a noticeable droop. She showed me pictures of what she looked like before, and the difference was dramatic. What was different today, though, was that her face was somehow more radiant, her eyes had this uncanny ability to penetrate into people’s souls, and her spirit seemed happy and at peace. What was different today was that her scars gave her a gift – the gift of a purpose and mission for her life – the gift of a story that could rescue other women, breathe hope to the hopeless, and give inspiration to the hurting.
Scars are often thought of as a thing to be rid of in our society. We pay people thousands of dollars to make our bodies look unscathed by life experiences that leave their marks on us. We compare ourselves to the most beautiful, flawless, and privileged people portrayed in media. Many people hide their scars as though they are something of which to be ashamed.
Hiding your scars is certainly an option thanks to advances in medicine. I’m not here to say there is anything wrong with making that choice, but there are some scars (both on the body and in the soul) that absolutely have the power to heal others if they are not covered or hidden in shame.
You see, being hurt in life is inevitable; it’s a fate we all share. Pain leaves its mark, but how we respond to that pain, how we allow it to reshape the story of our lives, how we heal and become stronger, gives us an incredible opportunity to be a healing force in the world. Our deepest cuts can heal, and turn into scars, which then become our story.
Sophie’s scars, and her determination not to let them rob her of joy in life, led to her telling her story in churches, and becoming a huge inspiration to many people. She has cried with men and women who have found themselves in similar situations as she once faced. She has laid out for others a path they can follow when they are at their lowest. She has chosen to become better, not bitter; to choose happiness over hate. Her scars gave her a miraculous ability to heal the pain of others by simply having the courage to display them, not hide them.
I can’t help but think of the story of Jesus, after the crucifixion and resurrection, where he appeared to the remaining 11 disciples in order to show ‘doubting Thomas’ his scars. In this beautiful story Jesus chose not to allow his rising from the dead to rob him of the scars that came from being executed in a most horrendous fashion. He chose to forever bear the scars in his hands, feet, and side. He chose to forever display the scars that tell his incredible story of boundless love, total sacrifice, and offer of healing to all mankind.
You and I could choose to cover our scars, and opt for a more “beautiful” appearance. But perhaps the most powerful choice we could ever make is to show those scars to others, and tell the story of how we’ve healed and overcome. Perhaps your scars hold God’s greatest purpose for your life, and your greatest opportunity to minister healing to a world filled with pain.
How have your scars reshaped your life’s purpose? When faced with the choice to become better or bitter, what enabled you to choose to be better? Tell us in the comments below!