The beauty of scars

Last year I met a beautiful little girl while serving on a mission team in the Dominican Republic. I wish I could remember her name, but I’ll never forget her face… or her story.

She was born with a physical deformity that made walking practically impossible. This precious child was the target of mockery, ridicule, and shame in her culture. Her future was bleak until she came to CURE International. CURE operates a children’s orthopedic hospital in Santo Domingo that serves little ones from impoverished families. After extensive surgery, this little girl was able to walk and was given a future full of new possibilities.

The ability to walk brings joy to her and her family; however, one thing remains that she attempts to hide. She has a long and prominent scar running from her hip down the length of her thigh. She thinks her scar is ugly, and I wondered if she felt ugly because of her scar. Through a translator, I attempted to tell her about the beauty of scars.

Scars tell stories. The scars on my shoulders from four shoulder surgeries tell the story of a past passion for competitive gymnastics. I carry more than just visible, physical scars; I also carry invisible emotional scars that also tell stories — stories of past mistakes, regrets, and damage from poor decisions. These scars – both visible and invisible – are part of the narrative of my life. I often wish they didn’t exist.

Whenever I find myself wishing my scars away, I remember that Jesus bore scars on His resurrected body. It was through His scars that the disciples believed in His resurrection. When Jesus first appeared to His disciples in a resurrected body, “He showed them the wounds in His hands and His side.” When the disciples saw these wounds, “…they were filled with joy when they saw the Lord!” (John 20.20).

Jesus’ scars tell the story of a cruel and violent crucifixion.  They tell the story of the ugliness of humanity unknowingly crucifying the man who came to save them. They tell the far greater story of God’s audacious and sacrificial love. The beauty of Jesus’ scars is the very evidence of God loving the world so much that He gave His one and only Son to suffer for our sins and pay the price we could not pay.

Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed. 

Isaiah 53:4-5

The truth is that we’re all broken. There is our brokenness in the physical sense that sometimes requires surgery. There is also a universal spiritual brokenness that always requires surgery of the soul.

Scars not only tell the story of past wounds; scars tell the story of healing. For if there were no scar, there would be no healing. A scar only appears in the wake of healing. A wound that was once open has now closed. Healing has taken place and has left its mark as a scar.

A beautiful little girl in the Dominican Republic bears a scar that tells a story. She once could not walk; now she can run. She was once the object of ridicule; now she is honored in her community.

There is beauty in the scar.