Friday, August 31, 2012

Beautiful Scars

"We all have scars, but as we run our fingers along their rough edges may we not have bitterness or self-pity or guilt; may we feel redeemed." - Mike Donehey

Scars.  Nobody seems to like them much because they mean we had a wound and who likes to be wounded??  Who really likes to have their scars show? The one on my back is a raised, red, crinkly one; the lines of which you can even see through my t-shirt.  Sometimes there is just no hiding our scars.  My mind flashes back to my Savior, who willingly held out out His hands and welcomed His beloved to inspect His scars.  

It's by His wounds we are healed. His scars reflect victory.  

If we have scars, it means we have healed from something.  My cancer scar symbolizes that I went from death to life.  It reminds me that for the first time in 12 years I went to the dermatologist for one pesky little mole and he found a spot in a totally different place that would have gone unnoticed and probably taken my life.  My scar has grace and mercy written all over it and because of that I am growing to love fact I am overwhelmingly grateful for it.  

The truth is, we all have scars whether they show or not.  Some of us wear our scars on the inside where past pain and wounds have been inflicted either by others or by ourselves.  It's easy for me to sit here and write about the obvious scar on my back from my cancer, but I know that I have scars deep inside of me that no one sees.  These inward scars can tend to be the ones we despise the most.  When I allow myself to actually touch them I feel pangs of guilt and sometimes bitterness.  But God touches those same scars and as He runs His finger along their rough edges He simply whispers "Redeemed". 

The truth is we struggle to see ourselves the way He sees us.  In a world of plastic surgery, pasted on smiles and counterfeit perfection, we can begin to drown in the reality of our mess.  We feel less than.  But God looks at you and I and He sees all our failures, all our wounds, all our struggles, all our scars and He simply says "Hello, lovely.  Redemption looks good on you".  Jesus came and identified with every wound you and I carry.  But He didn't just come to identify with them - He came to HEAL them.  The wounds that He suffered were so that ours could be restored.  So He looks at us, marred, battered and bruised and His heart leaps because He loves His job...making beautiful things out of our messed up lives. It's His delight to help us know that we are loved regardless of any mark we may carry.   

I can't help but think about Etanaite in Ethiopia as I write this.  Some of you may remember her story from when I first met her in September of 2011.  She was raped, impregnated and outcast as a teenager. She carried such profoundly deep wounds.  I got to spend time with her again in Ethiopia last month and the difference in her was startling.  

Her smile lit up the room.  As she went from table to table serving the children in the feeding program, her laughter carried across the room.  The difference in her was night and day.  She hugged me so tightly I could hardly breathe, whereas before, her eyes were cast down on the ground and her arm hung limply around me.  I think this is what happens when our wounds become scars.  There's a joy that comes with our healing.  There's an ability to walk again with a spring in our step as we look at our scars and see their beauty. Etainette's wounds were out to kill and destroy her spirit, but Love so gently stepped in and stitch by stitch sewed her back together. 

I pray today that you would look at your scars and find that they remind you of Hope.  We'll get more gaping, oozing wounds in this life, to be sure.  But they won't stay that way because we have a God who is deeply committed to our healing and wholeness.  Allow Him to bind up your wounds so that when they become scars your only response will be to whisper the word "Redeemed".  Because that is what we are.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

On A Limb

God, You have made us for Yourself and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You.  Augustine
The first time I saw this picture it literally took my breath away.  I saw myself immediately. It was her eyes that caused me to recognize myself.  While her body looks at rest, you can see something in her eyes.  Her crossed legs and folded hands give the illusion of peace, but her eyes and mouth are a dead give away for some level of discomfort...some degree of hesitancy.  Yet there she sits, literally hanging out on a limb.  

And aren't we all just hanging out on a limb in some way? 

What I love about this picture is that although her arms are over the branch, it's the limb that is actually holding her.  Her only task is to lean in and rest.  While I love being able to see her eyes, I almost wish that they were closed.  But I suppose having them open is a better picture of the reality most of us choose every day.  We almost rest.  We come close to almost tuning the noise of the world out.  We almost trust that the limb that is holding our sometimes crushing weight will actually do just that - hold.  But instead, our eyes open and tenuously look about us. Even as we assume a posture of rest, it's feigned.  

Jesus says "Are you tired?  Worn out?  Come to me.  Get away with me and you'll recover your life.  I'll show you how to take a real rest." - Matthew 11:28 (The Message) 

I admit it.  I'm tired.  I'm worn out. Okay, the truth is I'm exhausted and I want a real rest. My burdens seem heavy, my failures seem great and my vision is blurry. Yet I'm not even as smart as the little girl in the picture...I won't even climb up on that limb to give myself an opportunity to rest.  How foolish. The Tree of Life has never stopped calling my name and beckoning me into a real rest. 

It's time to climb up on that limb, throw my arms over the branch, lay my head down and close my eyes.  In rest, the Tree carves truth and identity into me.  The Tree breathes oxygen into my soul, life into my very being. I am a mere shell without it. 

"For I will restore health to you and your wounds I will heal," declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 30:17)  Did you catch that?  There's nothing for us to do except come to the Lord and let HIM restore us. He does the work, because after all, rest that we have to work for is no rest at all.  God desires that we simply receive from Him.  And yet somehow, that makes me skittish.  Simply RECEIVE??? It goes against the grain.  My mind tells me I can both receive AND continue working towards something.  However, I know this one thing deeply - my doing has become my undoing.  And there is Jesus saying just COME. RECEIVE. REST. BE.   

So this squirming little girl is going to climb up on that limb after all.  And she's going to recover her life.