When I was a little kid, I cut my head on a wall.
Yeah, I know, that sounds far-fetched. But when a two-year-old forehead meets a metal-reinforced drywall corner at high speed, things happen.
As a result, I ended up with one of my earliest memories: lying on an operating table while a doctor stitched the cut on my forehead. (Moral of the story, kiddos: don’t run in the house.)
Unfortunately, however, it didn’t heal perfectly, and to this day I have a small scar from the accident. Fortunately, it’s not very noticeable, but occasionally I look in the mirror and the scar reminds me of that fateful evening many years ago.
Ruined by My Scars
I carry other scars as well. But these scars aren’t readily apparent. At least, not to the eye. They are scars of the heart and soul, remnants of deep wounds from years gone by. Wounds from legalism within the Mennonite church; from ATI, the cultic homeschool program that I grew up in; from purity culture, which shaped my perspective on love, sex, dating, relationships, and even parental control. I have scars from being pushed to act like an adult, while simultaneously being treated like a kid; scars from attempting to excel in performance-based relationships with both God and my dad.
To be entirely honest, I hate my scars. At least sometimes.
I don’t want to be an abnormal guy. I don’t want to be a weirdo or a misfit. I want to be able to act like everyone else, to understand how normal people think, to understand the myriad of pop culture references that I hear. And yet, I can’t change my past, or the influences that shaped me into the man I am today.
And I can’t erase my scars.
By God’s grace, I have healed immensely, albeit at what sometimes feels like a snail’s pace. But I know that I will always have memories of things that should never have happened, and deal with things that I shouldn’t have to deal with.
And here, I suppose, my perfectionistic tendencies and my perfectionistic past teachings combine to tell me that I will always be broken in some way. That I’ll always be a misfit, understood by few, rejected by some, and hopefully loved by others who are able to get past my weirdness.
But the other day, I learned something.
I learned that scars are okay.
Jesus Has Scars, Too
I was heading for a delivery stop in my commercial truck, diesel engine rumbling as I sailed down Interstate 270 towards Washington, DC. The stereo was playing John chapter 20, the story of Jesus rising from the dead and appearing to His disciples. And in the midst of the glorious story, I heard:
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.John 20:19-20, NIV
And all of a sudden it hit me: Jesus, in His perfect, resurrected body, had scars. Even though He had been perfectly healed, He still retained the scars of His crucifixion.
Not only that, but He readily showed them to His disciples as proof of His identity.
I sensed God speaking to me: “It’s okay for you to have scars, too, Joel.”
Scars don’t mean that I haven’t healed. Nor does healing mean that I have no scars, no trace of my past wounds. I can be fully healed, yet still show signs of my rough past.
And. That. Is. Totally. Okay.
Scars Are Okay
It’s okay for people to see my scars. To hear the story behind the scars. It’s okay to be a little weird, to have to deal with things that others don’t.
The scars may fade with time. God may do a miraculous work and make them disappear. But at the same time, if they remain, the scars are almost like a medal of honor. They show that I was wounded, yet I have recovered. In short, they tell a story of God’s redeeming grace. And they prove that I know what I’m talking about.
I still don’t enjoy my scars. But I’m learning to accept them.
Because it’s totally okay to have scars.
Just like Jesus.