Brokenness can birth beauty. This is one of the first truths I ever learned, as a young toddler clutching crayons and Cabbage Patch Dolls. I absorbed the basics: Cows say moo. The sky is blue. And, scars testify to healing.
No one said it quite like that, of course, nor would I have understood if they had. But during early evening baths as my mama rubbed sudsy washcloths over my small frame, I’d point to the long pink scar stretched like a zipper down my chest. I would ask her questions, ask to hear again the story of how I’d been born broken, and how I’d been patched like the knee of my red corduroy pants.
It would be decades before I’d ever feel a twinge of insecurity over that massive scar. Something about the way my mama’s eyes smiled upon my healed wound assured me that it was a mark of beauty.
* * *
We’re all born broken, of course. We come flailing out of the womb screaming, “Me! Me!” The scar from my heart surgery is a tangible reminder of everyone’s invisible truth: we are not okay.
No one wants to be imperfect. So we edit our photographs and shut the door on messy closets. We cover our gray hairs and pimples and scars and sins. Like Adam and Eve, our first instinct is to hide. We know we can’t live up to Eden’s ideals, so we find a shadow and crouch low.
We think people (God?) will be repulsed by our flaws, and we don’t want to be outcasts. So we disguise our truest selves. It’s ironic, isn’t it? That we hide to gain acceptance? After all, hiding places are, by definition, isolated. There is no acceptance in isolation. Others cannot accept the parts of you they do not see. It is impossible to quarantine our flaws from the world while connecting with the rest of humanity.
* * *
I’ll never forget that single day I was self-conscious about my open-heart surgery scar. I was twenty, at a beach-side event feeling good in a brand-new swimsuit. And my crummy boyfriend made fun of my scar in front of his entire fraternity.
He made fun of the mark that said I’d been saved from certain death.
I could have walked away from that beach determined to cover my scar for the rest of my life. But here’s the thing. By revealing my own flaw, I revealed my boyfriend’s disgusting response. It was useful information. He is the one who should have been embarrassed.
* * *
There’s this amazing group of women I meet with each month. We eat and worship and talk and pray. When I’m with them, it is like I can feel the Holy Spirit moving through the room. I’m convinced that He shows up because these women are committed to being real. They come to the group, and they come out of hiding.
I’m not saying we sit around spilling our deepest darkest secrets. There’s plenty about each woman that I don’t know. But they don’t play church. They don’t put on facades. We practice telling each other the truth so we can also tell God the truth. Stuff like, “I’m afraid to give God total control of my life,” and “I told my husband I’ve been lying to him.” Real stuff. We step out from behind the bushes where Adam and Eve first hid to stand exposed before God and man.
So far, no one has responded to flaws like that crummy old boyfriend of mine did.
* * *
Scripture repeatedly says God draws near to the humble. It makes sense. Those who are proud are busy hiding their flaws (and therefore their whole selves) behind bushes. The humble step away from their hiding spot and say, “Here I am, God, naked and exposed and unworthy.”
In our humble moments, we are vulnerable. We tell God, “I don’t want You, but I wish I did.” Or, “I refuse to give You control of my life, and I don’t know how to let go, so You’re just going to have to take control from me. But be gentle, please!”
We expose the most rotten, puss-filled gaping holes in our souls to God. And like a loving surgeon, He disinfects and stitches closed each spot. It may leave scars. And there will be people who make fun of the marks. But we’ll know we were made whole. Our scars testify that we have a Healer. Like a loving parent, He smiles on each mark and assures us it is beautiful to be human in front of the world.