Certain life-altering scar sources lie deep in our beings. These painful injuries — not surface blemishes of differences or health issues — require careful and compassionate consideration. A few years back I wrote a whole book on this topic — my personal scar story.1
The wounds of my first and second families sliced me through, leaving scars that today tell stories of who I am, what I’ve learned, how I see God and His love, and how I live differently on the other side of broken, where there’s beauty. I embrace the hope of Victor Frankl’s observation, “In some way, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning.”2
I’m not telling you anything you don’t know here. You’re well acquainted with the grief of being wounded. We just think we’re the only ones. Because of our brokenness, and our view of it as disqualifying us from contributing to life around us, we struggle to see any good — beauty — in our painful scar stories.
We have work to do here to discover that God brings beauty in the broken. The “hard” of the matter is that wounds that come from the hands of another leave dramatic scars that tell formative stories. God gets this.
There’s yet another injury that occurs when we slip in our humanity and make a mess ourselves: failure. Failure leaves a scar of shame that threatens to define our days forever. God gets this too. He scarred His Son with nails to free us from living under such a hissing curse of shame.
In the latter years of my second family’s breaking, God began to show me that while there surely were wounds coming at me from the hands of others, I was inflicting wounds as well, some on myself and many on others.
Down I went into the necessary humiliation of pride recognition. I truly thought that if I did everything right as a woman, wife, mother, and leader, then I’d achieve the formulaically perfect results of a happy marriage, perfect family with perfect kids, and a shiny, bright ministry. It took breakage to see my arrogance and my resulting judgment of others. (Their kids were so rebellious because they’re never home with them! Their marriage broke up because she let herself go! You know the drill.) The thing is, there’s no formula for perfect. God isn’t interested in us being perfect anyway. He’s more into reality and the redemption He died to provide. Redemption comes only when we recognize our need for it by falling down.
But oh, how scraped up we get falling down! Scars cover our knees, from the falling and from the getting back up and realizing we have to go back down in prayer for forgiveness. Even after we’ve crawled in confession to God and, at His directive, to those we’ve wronged, we still struggle. The hardest person to forgive is yourself.
Scars tell stories of pain — and redemption. Our brokenness provides a pedestal for the display of God’s beauty.
As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:7,
We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
When we see our scars the way God sees them, we see beauty in our broken.
One autumn afternoon while on a trip in a small village in England, I stopped in an antique shop for a tiny excursion. In the back, stacked in a heap, I discovered a set of six antique china plates. They caught my attention because they looked so similar to the plates from my grandmother’s plate collection — my most precious legacy from her — that had been displayed on a three-shelf hutch on my dining room wall. In the very season in which everything seemed to be falling off of the walls in my life, somehow that hutch had lost its grip on the wall and fell, smashing every single plate to smithereens. The sound haunts me still.
I picked up the stack and began to thumb through the plates. Suddenly I stopped. The second plate was cracked straight through and yet held together in sturdiness. Curious, I turned it over. On the back of the plate, like railroad tracks along the crack, metal staples had been inserted. What? Back and forth, I turned the plate over in wonder. Going through the rest of the stack, I discovered several others were similarly repaired. A tag taped on the top plate read “Victorian Era.”
Ever so carefully, I carried the stacked treasure find up to the proprietress and asked, “Can you tell me about these plates and the staples?”
“Oh sure — they’re from the Victorian era. That was a method of china repair employed then. They used brass and metal rivets, or staples like these.” She pointed to the back of the plate.
“Why would anyone bother?” I wondered aloud.
“Well, if you had a choice to eat off of a wooden board or a repaired piece of porcelain china, what would you do?”
Indeed, I thought, how true. But that’s what God does, isn’t it? He doesn’t throw us away when we break. He repairs. He redeems. God “stapled” His own Son to the cross that we might have a shot at hope. The stapled line of a scar tells the story of His love in our lives.
I have to think that scars and their stories are important to God. Really important. For when Jesus appeared to the disciples after His death, He brought His scars for show-and-tell. John reported Thomas wanting to see “the nail marks in His [Jesus’] hands” in John 20:25, and Jesus inviting Thomas,
Put your finger here; see My hands. Reach out your hand and put it into My side. — John 20:27
Jesus’ scars were the real deal. The Greek word for hand really included both the wrist and the forearm.3 Jesus had hung from the cross, fastened with metal spikes through His wrists and His feet. In order to demonstrate He was the same Jesus, He rose from the dead with the scars of His suffering still visible.
Scars proved Jesus to be the Savior. The scars of Jesus tell the story of our salvation.
We tend to think we have to be “done” in order to share the stories of our scars. Tied up with a bow. Pretty — or at least prettier. Not true. Just as Jesus returned with His scars intact in order to glorify the God who raised Him (treasure in a jar of clay!), we honor God when we reveal the beauty in our broken.
There is beauty in our broken and painful stories.
Seeing ourselves the way God sees us — through the cracks of our brokenness, our blemishes, our wounds — changes everything. Suddenly I’m not the only one, and neither are you! And somehow there’s more to enjoy, more to celebrate, more to discover, and more to offer because of the true beauty of our scars.
Excerpted with permission from Hello Beauty Full: Seeing Yourself as God Sees You by Elisa Morgan, copyright Thomas Nelson.
- Elisa Morgan, The Beauty of Broken: My Story, and Likely Yours Too (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2013)
- Victor Frankl, Harold S. Kushner, and William J. Winslade, Man’s Search for Meaning (Boston: Beacon, 2006), iBooks, 320.
- Brandon Appelhans and Stephen Albi, “Suffering Redeemed: Finding Purpose in the Pain of Mental Disorder,” Engage, Fall 2013, 17, http://denverseminary.uberflip.com/i/199485/16.
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Do you, like me, wish your scars were a little less visible, less embarrassing, or less shameful? Or maybe that your story looked a little prettier or even perfect? Or that you were less broken, less messy, with a little less limp and a more I’ve-got-it-together-ness? I’ve yet to meet someone who has been really wounded or who has wrecked their lives/ marriages/ families/ church groups who hasn’t had to face the truth that their story — broken and shattered as it is — is exactly what God wants to use in them for His glory and for the helping and loving of others to a place of healing and freedom. He wants to show His redemption — the beauty. How have you found beauty in your brokenness? Come share with us on our blog. We want to hear from you. ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full