Can We See Our Scars as Beautiful?

If we’re honest with ourselves (and you know I like to be embarrassingly honest) we’re all a bit of hot mess of scars aren’t we? You may not have physical scars from cancer surgery or from slicing yourself with the carving knife, but I’m pretty sure, if we’re brave enough to look, we’ve got one or two emotional scars that growing up and living life have left behind. Do your scars make you cringe with shame, because mine do? Are you embarrassed by their ugliness? Do you hide them? If you do, you’re not alone (mine are currently hidden away in a new pair of high-rise jeans). But what if we are meant to see our scars differently?

So often we are challenged to see the dents, dings, scratches, faded paint and scars of our life, as beautiful. Viewed as part of the whole. Valued and cherished. Confidently celebrated as “the beauty in the every day”.

But what does that really mean? People say that kind of thing the whole time, but the cynic in me can dismiss these words as platitudes or a sweetly veiled “suck it up and look on the bright side”. Can God really bless anything? Is this what He means when He says He will turn our ashes into beauty? Can I include my ugly cancer scars and deeply buried inner hurts in that? Can any of us truly celebrate our emotional and physical scars in that way? Is shabby chic just for distressed furniture or can distressed people really be desired like that?

Is shabby chic just for distressed furniture or can distressed people really be desired like that?

Four years ago, after my surgery, as I looked down at the lines of glued, sewn and stapled flesh adorning my post-surgery belly, all I could see was sickness, weakness, ugliness and the harsh statistics of cancer recurrence obstinately staring back at me. So I chose not to look. For months I kept my head up, my mouth shut and the lights off.

I started to doubt what I knew to be true of God and unfortunately, I don’t think that’s uncommon. When our shame and our scars weigh so heavily on us, we choose to believe the pain that screams and pokes at us, over trusting a God we can’t touch and who speaks in a still small voice.

Then Easter happened, just as it did last week. I was confronted afresh with Jesus’ beautiful, ugly scars. The open, bleeding wounds on His hands and feet that, on this side of the resurrection, are the tenderest expression of selfless, unconditional love the world has ever encountered. I couldn’t stop thinking about them and about my own ugly scars, and as I lingered on them, He whispered tenderly to me “I love you – I went through this for you.”

Then it dawned on me, isn’t this what we do with so much of the pain and ugliness of our lives? Keep quiet, hide it in the dark, and fool our selves that its power over us has been silenced?”We soldier on not talking about the abuse, grief, bullying or whatever other pain we’ve endured, deaf to the lies those hurts have fooled us into believing; “I’m unlovable.” Or “I’m unacceptable.” Or maybe “I’m not good enough.”

The truth is, hiding our scars under our high-rise jeans or behind a wall of self-sufficiency, can be a cosmetic band-aid for our low self-esteem and our spiraling self-pity. I knew that God isn’t in the business of covering up our junk, or sweeping it under a carpet of fake perfection. He likes to look at us, just as we are (scars and all), and smile. He likes to transform us, heal us, mature us and make us more like his Son. I’d seen His loving gaze fall on other people’s wounds hundreds of times and now it was my turn. But still I questioned whether He could ever look at me like that?

Ever so slowly I began to catch a glimpse of God’s deep love for me and His unwavering presence throughout my treatment. The lies I told myself were muffled by His promises that He loves me and will never leave me. (John 3:16, Heb 13:5)

And now, four years on, as Easter has come and gone, when I look down at my own scars, I no longer see sickness, weakness and ugliness. I see His love, His healing, His calling and His faithfulness. Woven within my scars is the road map of my story in Him and with Him. And yes, on a good day, I catch a glimpse of some beauty.

I believe He wants to whisper the same thing to us all. “I love you – I went through this for you.”

We all have scars of some shape or size. Perhaps yours are on your body or buried deep in your fragile heart. Maybe they’re part of your childhood memories? What story do they tell?

Can you believe that He thinks they’re beautiful?

As Easter fades into the background, let’s invite God into those stories and allow Him to look at those scars and call them beautiful. He loves us just as we are and He wants to invite us further on and further in to the transformational story of the life He has for us.