Back in my early high school era, I was taking a shower one day, had my eyes closed because of the shampoo on my hair that was running into my eyes, then I turned and ran into the faucet with my face, catching the metal edge of it in the middle of my left eyebrow. Now there was not just shampoo in my eyes, but blood too (sorry if you’re squeamish).
What did I do? Not much. Got out of the shower, got dressed, and waited for it to stop bleeding. Moved on.
It wasn’t really that bad of a cut, but it looked pretty awful. And I wanted people to see it, so I was intentional about not cleaning the area, – for maximum gross-out effect. I wanted the attention. To be seen, even if I was seen in a negative way, was to me better than unseen. I know now just how unseen I felt in those days.
Predictably, my mom (stepmom, but I called her mom) made a pretty big deal about it. She insisted I clean it up, which I only sort-of did, because I didn’t want to lose the visibilty of it. After all, it was directly in the middle of my eyebrow, so if I cleaned it up too much, there wouldn’t be much to see! Some girls at school showed concern. What happened?? they would ask. Does it hurt?? I loved every moment, every glance, every question. I didn’t care that the wound was self-inflicted and even demonstrated my own awkwardness. I didn’t care that some of the guys would make fun of me for being clumsy enough to run into the shower faucet. I liked the attention, plain & simple. There’s a tiny divet under my left eyebrow to this day.
Years later, during a camp/conference situation, I gashed my head open on a steel beam under a staircase in the hotel where we were staying. I was “parking” my bike under the staircase, which I had to stoop to get under, but then stood straight up and WHAM! It knocked me on my butt – literally. I sat down, dazed for a moment, and then put my hand up to my head. Blood. Lots of it! I rushed up the stairs and put my head in the bathroom sink – blood flowing freely from the wound. I don’t remember a lot about the next several minutes, but I know someone in my family took pictures of the gash on their phone so I could see how bad it was. Someone else called a friend who was there at the conference with us who was a nurse. Should I go to the ER and get stitches? Would it heal on its own? There was enough ambiguity that I decided against getting medical treatment. My family had already made some dinner plans, and I didn’t want to be the person to keep those plans from happening. So, I smeared a lot of antibiotic ointment into the wound, put a hat on my head, and we went on to dinner. The nurse checked on me several times, and my family also “doted” on me a fair amount – which I soaked up. Again, I didn’t mind the attention, even given the self-inflicted nature of the incident. It healed up in time, without any further treatment. There’s a pretty long scar, and even an indention, hidden under my hair to this day.
And now I’m reminded of how beat-up my shins used to be when I was a kid. I rode a heavy “BMX” style bike with “free wheel” and a hand brake. I also tried a lot of crazy stuff on that bike – jumping off ramps and curbs, doing wheelies down the street, whatever I could think to do. And sometimes, when I would land awkwardly, my foot would hit the pedal just right to send it spinning backwards, into my shin. And if you’ve ever been kicked in the shin, you know how much that hurts! My shins were perpetually bruised and chewed up. But I didn’t care. In fact, I was pretty proud about it. I was a scrappy kid, and wanted everyone to know it! I still have scars on my shins – pretty subtle, and blend in with the age spots and freckles. But I know they’re there.
In recent history, I was removing a large mirror from a bathroom vanity area, and the mirror shattered in my hands. It broke into three large pieces, and one of the pieces crossed three of my fingers on my right hand. That was an immediate mess! One of the knuckles was peeled back to the bone. In this case, I was pretty concerned I had just started a job where I needed to use my hands constantly, and was afraid I might lose the job as a result. So, I went to my doctor’s office, which was very close to my house, for help. But the skin on my fingers was so gnarled up, there was nothing to be sewn together. All they could do was clean them, really well, put antibiotic ointment on them, and bandage them up. I figured out I could still manage to work, with an oversized rubbber glove on that hand. In hindsight, I don’t think my boss would’ve ever fired me for hurting myself, but wow I was pretty scared about it! I also got a lot of attention from it. The scars on my fingers were quite visible for a long time, but are pretty subtle now.
It’s easy to share about and even show my physical scars. I don’t even mind admitting I can be awkward and klutzy.
It’s quite another thing for me to share the emotional wounds I’ve received over the years. Harder still to admit how many of those wounds have been self-inflicted. Seems my clumsiness isn’t just (isn’t primarily?) physical. Worse yet, how many wounds and scars I’ve inflicted – especially on people I love and care deeply about! I have a lump in my throat even thinking about it.
About five years ago, an image came to my mind, which I sketched out and ultimately had tattooed onto the inside of my left forearm. It looks a little different in ink, but this is that sketch:
The inspiration for that sketch came from a passage found in the bible. Here’s how a little of it goes:
“Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.”
This quote is about Jesus, my higher power. And while it reads as if it were written after Jesus lived, the really interesting thing is that it was written a really long time before! That, friend, is called prophecy. And every prediction and prophecy in the bible about Jesus came true! There’s no one in history like him.
Yes, I have scars. A lot of them! Most are unseen – and not just because they’re hidden by hair, eyebrows, age, or time. I know you have them, too.
It’s the brokenness Jesus experienced that redeems my own. It’s literally his scars that have healed mine. Because of his wounds I can write today that I am healed. Perfectly! That’s what my tattoo proclaims to everyone who sees it. I’m broken, and I’m healed. Now, to be real…that doesn’t mean I’m perfect, yet. I’m still working that part out – or rather, Jesus is working that part out in me. And I’m learning to trust Him to do that. I’m thankful for therapy, and for the group of guys I meet with routinely to practice vulnerability and transparency. I’m thankful for my wife and my family who support me. I feel so undeserving, and yet I am so grateful!
He makes Beautiful Things where we only see pain and brokenness. I’m not ashamed of my scars – any of them. I am guilty, yes. But not ashamed. He redeems my mistakes, my pain, the hurt I’ve received and the pain I’ve inflicted (that I will inflict). His scars heal mine. They heal yours, too!
I had a friend in high school who ran into a horizontal bar and smacked his head in such a way that it blacked both of his eyes. He had a hard time convincing everyone that he didn’t get into a fight. They even put his picture in the yearbook with the caption, “I ran into a pole! Really!” I bet he has as many stories as you do. ^_^
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Ouch. That had to suck!
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He seemed to take it in stride. He was a pretty laid back dude.
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Precious and refreshing in a way. Thank you for being vulnerable. You’re making a difference.
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