Then Jesus said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Take your hand, and put it into my side. Stop doubting, and believe.” –John 20:27 GW
If you ran into me at the grocery store, you would not see my scars, you would see a smiling thirty-four-year-old who appears normal. But spend a little time with me and you will discover my secret: I am chronically ill.
I grew up thinking about disability as something that happened to other people. It was never supposed to be part of my story.
I was the driven honors student who paid for most of my private university through scholarships, the passionate educator who was going to transform lives through teaching and the new bride ready to build a life with her best friend.
Then in my early twenties, I was diagnosed with narcolepsy, post orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), and gastroparesis.
I began collecting scars.
I have scars on my body and also internally, where narcolepsy has killed off my sleep cells - ruining my body’s ability to regulate the quality of my rest. Put me in a bikini and you’ll see five scars on my abdomen from stomach surgeries I needed to improve my digestion. There is a port (like one a cancer patient has) embedded in my chest. I use it to run IV fluids from home to counteract the chronic dehydration and low blood volume caused by POTS.
But the scars I really don’t want you to see are on my heart: the grief of shattered dreams, the insecurity of being so different from my peers, and the shame of feeling “weak.” These invisible lacerations cut the deepest.
My external and emotional scars collided on the day my port was placed. Running IV fluids helps tremendously with my fatigue, blood pressure, tachycardia, and shortness of breath. But I felt ugly wearing a needle and bandage on my chest five days a week. Eyes stinging with tears, I asked my husband, “Do you still think I’m pretty?”
My husband Parker took my face in his hands and softly replied, “To me this needle is the sexiest thing ever. It reminds me of how brave you are and of how you keep pushing through tremendous difficulty to be your best self for me. Every surgical scar you have makes you more lovely in my eyes.” Could he be right? Can scars be beautiful?
As Christians, God has promised each of us a new unblemished body when our time on earth is finished (2 Corinthians 5:4). Yet, the risen Christ appears before Thomas and holds out nail-marked hands. Why keep a reminder of the crucifixion?
The resurrected Jesus has chosen to keep his scars because they testify to a passion fiercer than death. They are both a victory march on sin and the grave.
His scars sing the world’s most extraordinary love story. And when we go to heaven and gaze at our Savior’s hands and feet, Jesus will be so much more beautiful because of them.
So perhaps our scars deserve a second look. Are you a victim of abuse or a resilient survivor who had the courage to leave a damaging relationship? Are you “only” a stay-at-home mom or a wise woman investing in the next generation? Are you weak for struggling with anxiety or strong because you keep persevering through fear? God can turn wounds into great assets and somewhere, another person is struggling with the same issue.
Your voice will reach them when all other voices fail, because you can meaningfully relate to their pain. You speak the language of divorce, of addiction recovery, or of infertility. When you bravely bare your burdens, bridges get built.
“…by his wounds we are healed.” –Isaiah 53:5
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