Thursday, May 21, 2015

Dancing With the Scars?

Life has its way of leaving scars, doesn’t it? My first physical scar showed up in my 20’s. I was lugging a large box out of a retail store and scraped the top of my right hand against a metal door. It wasn’t a deep gash, but to this day I bear a “souvenir” of the incident. Years later I managed to cut myself in nearly the same spot on my other hand, so I’m still fairly symmetrical. (You know what “symmetry” is? In the South, it’s where they take the body after it leaves the funeral home.)

My most prominent scar came nearly nine years ago when I underwent open-heart surgery to have four bypasses and have my aorta replaced. I became an unofficial member of “the zipper club,” because that’s kind of what it looks like after they stitch you back up. My “zipper” is less pronounced now, but the scar lingers.

I’ve been thinking about scars because of a comment made by a young lady I met about six years ago. Like me, she had an aortic aneurysm and required an open-heart procedure to correct it. Since we had the same cardiothoracic surgeon, he suggested I meet with her and her family to discuss my surgery experience and the recovery process.

The young woman, who also has fared well since her surgery, said on social media recently her only regret is the scar that remains quite visible. This is understandable, especially given the emphasis our society places on external appearance. And some people have the insensitivity to stare whenever they observe something even slightly out of the ordinary.

I responded to her post, noting the scar proudly represents the surgery that has allowed her to pursue her life’s dreams, get married, and enjoy countless mornings filled with opportunity. Rather than a flaw, her scar can be viewed as a gift from God.

The world is filled with individuals who appear flawless on the outside. Who they are on the inside, however, can be a very different story. I’ve met some people like that. The gossip magazines and tabloid talk shows introduce us to many more of them.

This is why the Bible reveals God is far more concerned with what how we look on the inside than on the outside. In fact, 1 Samuel 16:7 tells us, “God sees not as man sees. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

And Jesus wasn’t trying to win friends and influence people when He denounced the preeminent religious leaders of the day: Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness” (Matthew 23:27-28).

He wasn’t saying people shouldn’t have any concern about looking their best, but we should give greater attention to our inner person: “All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the Lord weighs the heart” (Proverbs 21:2).

Of course, not all scars are visible. They can be emotional or psychological, the remnants of cruel, damaging words as well as physical abuse in its many despicable forms. They may be easier to conceal than a surgical scar, but there just the same.

The key, I believe, is learning to get past them and the pain they represent – dancing with the scars, so to speak.

As followers of Christ, when we stare at our scars and declare, “God, you don’t understand,” we can hear His reply, “Yes, child, I do understand.” As Isaiah 53:5 reminds us, “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

Jesus suffered on our behalf, and the Bible says even today He bears the scars of His atoning sacrifice for our sins. Because of that, we truly have the privilege of dancing with our scars. “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy” (Psalm 30:11).

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