A few weeks ago, I met a plastic surgeon at work. He immediately noticed the scar on my face and started asking about it, and offering to do something to fix it. I told him about my accident, how it was 20 years ago and I’d been told that was probably the best it was going to get. He pushed, saying I should at least go in for an evaluation and that insurance was likely to cover reconstructive surgery. I was relieved when he left, feeling an unsettling sense of insecurity.
Scars are interesting things. Everyone has at least a few, it seems. Maybe you ran into a piece of furniture when you were little and cut your chin. Or maybe you had a bicycle accident and got some nasty road rash. Or a surgery, or a burn. If you’ve lived much at all, you have a mark to tell a story about. I have more scars than just the one on my face. I have burn scars from working in a school cafeteria for a couple of years, scars from acne as a teenager, and a scar from where my oldest child was born by cesarean.
It so happens my biggest scar is on my face. The summer I turned twelve, a friend and I were riding her ATV and lost control. We ran into a barbed wire fence, and we were lucky to walk away alive. I had a nasty laceration on my face, and she had one on her neck and one on her arm. It was scary and traumatic, and our lives were truly never the same after that experience.
My friend could hide her scars a little more easily than I could mine. For a long time, it was all I saw when I looked in the mirror. No matter how I learned to do my makeup, how great I could make my hair look, what I wore, there was that scar glaring back at me, reminding me that I was forever damaged, that I would never be as beautiful as I could have been. It would be several years before the scar on my face wasn’t the first conversation I’d have with a person I just met. I’m not sure if it’s because the appearance lessened over time or because people gain a filter as they get older. Probably a little of both.
I got used to it after awhile, and I didn’t notice it as much. Then every once in awhile, I’d have another conversation about it. Usually it was a new person or a kid who would ask me what happened, and someone I’d known for awhile would then say, “I’ve always wondered about that, but I was afraid to ask.” And I would tell the story again, in gory detail or short summary depending on my mood and the audience.
We all have scars. Sometimes they’re visible like the one on my face. More often, they’re hidden deep in our hearts. We were hurt, traumatized, abused. Our wounds bled for days or weeks or months or years. Maybe someone came alongside us and helped us heal. Maybe not. Maybe those wounds have scarred over, or maybe they’re still tender. Maybe they’re glaring and obvious, or maybe we can hide them well. Whatever the case, we have them. There’s not anyone who hasn’t been hurt in some way.
I’ve been praying the Lord’s Prayer as part of my time with God over the past year or so. The line that says “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” is a hard one. Some of those wounds are deep. Sometimes they hurt long after the wound was inflicted. But this is the prayer that reminds me how I’ve been the one who has inflicted those wounds in others. It reminds me that my healing is found in my ability to forgive, that my wounds are healed by the same Healer that heals the wounds I inflict on others. This is the prayer that reminds me that God’s grace is as sufficient for my sin as it is for those who have sinned against me. This is where my scars are made beautiful by God’s love.
I probably won’t contact that surgeon. Not just because I don’t think there’s much to be done about my scar. But because my scar has become a reminder of who I am. When I see it reflected in the mirror, I see a person who has weathered life, a person who has survived, a person who has known the healing of the Great Physician. It represents more than just that hot July day when I was 11, but a lifetime of grace given and grace received.
Let your scars be reminders of God’s ever present grace.