"No wound? No scar?
Yes, as the master shall the servant be,
And pierced are the feet that follow Me.
But thine are whole. Can he have followed far
Who has no wound? No scar?"
(By Amy Carmichael.)
This is a post about scars; about how our feelings towards them can be quite complex and not as straight forward as their surface level appearance might suggest. We can regard them as blemishes upon the landscape of our bodies; unsightly reminders of incidents which have pierced and forever altered the neat, once perfect envelope of skin that we entered this world in. More poetically, they are a visible, physical reminder of the journey that our bodies have taken. We are a living, breathing scrapbook detailing the incidents of our lives, and our scars can be read as entries.
I have scars. I have many scars. And each one tells a story.
The white patch on my left knee, that conjures up the pain of falling onto sharp gravelly stone, whilst doing endless laps of the school tennis courts; a happenstance that was the whim of a sadistic P.E teacher (is there any other kind?!). The fine white line across the knuckle of my right index finger, which brings to mind the time I was packing to go on holiday and put my hand into my wash-bag, slicing it on the razor that I'd forgotten was in there. The five inch long scar on my hip; a memento from an operation when I was nine, a scar I was particularly proud of as a child because it was especially gory, gaining me extra kudos with my school friends. Ordinary scars, mundane scars. Some from childhood scrapes and falls, some collected in adulthood from moments of clumsy stupidity or mindlessness, or plain bad luck.
Some scars have far less humble origins, and have greater import because of it. I have written before about the scar I have on my face, which for me is incidental to how I look. After all, I've never seen what I would look like without the scar. It's always been there and is as much a part of me as my chin or my eyelids. It is also very visible; scars on ones face can't be hidden, at least not easily. It might not be the first thing you notice about me when you see me face to face, but notice it you will.
Other scars can be hidden from view beneath clothing and need never see the light of day. I am blessed (cursed) with paper thin, freckly, white skin, that burns in weak spring sunshine and has historically rebelled against any attempts to stretch it. I've had four babies, so quite a lot of stretching has been required over the years. Hence, I am covered in so many stretch marks that I resemble the road map of Britain. Happily, these ugly marks; once raspberry red in colour but now faded to silvery white, need never be exposed to the world, unless I decide to wear a bikini in public, and honestly, after you've had four babies, who the heck is going to do that? We can't all be Heidi Klum, after all.
I suppose I could view these marks as symbols of life; the stripes I earned for surviving pregnancy and birth and for bringing four young people into the world. They are war wounds; a visible reminder of the physical pain and toil that the body endures during its gestational battles.
But no. To me they are ugly, unsightly blemishes that I'd really rather not have at all, and I'm grateful that they can easily be hidden from view. I don't really lose much sleep over it, but I don't exactly celebrate them either.
Some people have a far less ambivalent attitude to their scars. In some cases, they can have a life-changing, detrimental impact upon the people who bear them: the pockmarks which recall teenage years marred by acne. The linear, neat, rows of scars across forearms and thighs, which bear traumatic witness to years of self-harm. The scars which disfigure and conjure up flashbacks of serious accidents or worse, incidents of assault or abuse. Scars have power over us, as they so often come with negative associations.
Scars are so much more than mere imperfections. Often, they are an integral, key player in our story. For good or bad, they have an impact. Let's consider the story of Jesus, specifically of his Resurrection. In Luke 24, we hear the story of Jesus appearing to the disciples after the Resurrection. He tells them:
“Look at my hands. Look at my feet. You can see that it's really me” (Luke 24:39.)
He doesn't say: “look at my face;” he encourages them instead to look upon his hands and feet, scarred, horribly, by the nails that pierced skin, flesh and bone. His scars are an absolutely integral part of the story. Indeed, it only works because of the scars. Only in the scars does the telling convince people. Like Thomas said,
“I won't believe it until I see the nail wounds in His hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand in the wound in His side.” (John: 20:25)
But Jesus’ scars weren't just proof that He was who He said He was; His scars were a powerful symbol that death had been defeated. And note this: His body; this risen body, was deliberately not resurrected perfectly. Jesus didn't emerge from the tomb all shiny and new, like a brand new penny. He was physically flawed. He was scarred. And yet this body was honouring to God, and it was perfect in His eyes.
And so then is mine. The life I have led is visible through my scars. They show I was born different, far less than perfect. They show that I've known pain. They show that I'm a mother, that I'm a surviver. They show that I'm alive. I've earned them, and I'll wear them with pride.
Our scars tell our story. They are our testimony. They show we have lived.