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Running a finger over the raised or chiseled out places can trigger memories of falling from a bike or sliding into home.
Perhaps the spot where you touched a hot stove or nicked out a chunk of finger while earning a survival badge. Those stories we think hard to remember sitting around the table with family or a party with friends. People even brag about scars inflicted from fights or sports. Broken bones have become rights of passage—badges of honor!
I bet you’re even thinking of your scar story now. Most of us have one. I have two that immediately come to mind. The first on my upper arm—the scarring from a smallpox vaccine received. A star shaped burst that forever marks me. A scar that becomes a talking point for others in my generation who notice it and have the same starburst on theirs.
The second makes his home on my right knee from the time I took my roller skates to the street in front of my house on Tuckerman. I was in the third grade. Roller skating was a big deal among my friends, and I wanted to practice so I could become more graceful. Gracefulness was not and is not my gift—and so I fell.
The experience of scraping my knee deep into the gravel and breaking my wrist in the process is a permanent part of my skin. However, I don’t mind discussing these scars. I laugh when I talk about them most times. They are my badges.
The scars we cannot see on the surface are often those we wish we could forget. Ripples cut deep into the heart. Raised parts of mind-fascia. Sharp memories, rough, and sobering.
For some of us, those places bring back a flash of violence. A hand across your face, or the taste of blood on your lip or dripping from your nose. A hard push to the ground, leaving bruising inward and out. Maybe for others the rejection from a failed relationship, or mistakes that cannot be undone. Maybe the embarrassment of taunts from people’s hateful comments or prejudices against you. Losing someone you loved from disease, accident, or suicide. These are the scars that bend us. These are scars that don’t make a party.
Brokenness can be bitter.
It leaves a person walking around trying desperately to find some other flavor to replace the awful taste it leaves behind. This searching can lead to sneaky little friends called vices. And vices can lead to more scars. It’s a circle if you’re not proactive.
Some experiences are so private only you and God above will ever know the details. These are not mentioned with laughter or pride. These are often kept secret or revealed across from clergy or a therapist—your tired heart unpacking itself with tears and fidgety hands. Maybe you reveal them alone cursing the sky, fists clenched in drunkenness. Maybe it comes out in anger or sarcasm.
They will appear.
They will come to the surface in some shape or form.
The question is, do you want to wrangle them first or let them emerge as they most certainly will in whatever form they choose?
I ask myself, would I exchange mine if I could? My heart scars that is. Absolutely.
Now I could tell you that I wouldn’t change a thing. Isn’t that what we are told is the mature answer? That each is a lesson, an opportunity?
Screw that. It’s painful, and I would exchange it in a flash. However, life doesn’t offer exchanges. It’s a “you touch it, you take it!” kind of deal. It is not a fairy tale. Now I do not consider myself a pessimist by saying such a somber thing, but I am a realist. Simply, life happens, and when it does, we have to make choices.
We get broken into—our hearts that is. Robbed, raped, and discarded. We have to respond when this invasion of peace occurs. I see three options. We can feel sorry for ourselves, become angry, or stand up from the muck and step out of it.
Now I believe all three have their place. I believe that a little “feeling sorry” is a healthy practice as long as it has a short sell/buy date. I believe that anger, when used in a good way, can be productive, empowering, and healing. And I believe stepping out of the mud that sucks you in deep is one of the most difficult actions there is on this planet.
Have you ever been sucked into the deep of mud? I mean, up to the knees, twig- and rock- filled muck? The harder you pull the more suction grabs ahold of you. I spent many summers on a farm along the Patuxent River. A clear memory of sinking knee-deep in mud after a big storm is still fresh in my mind years later. I was swimming in the river after a hard rain, and the runoff had created mud along the shoreline. When I stepped onto the ground, I sank knee-deep in mud. I panicked. I sunk deeper. I felt fire in my stomach with urgency. I sank deeper and deeper until the mud was mid-thighs. Being alone didn’t make it easier. I yelled out, but no one came.
Mud has a mind to keep you in it. It is only when you let go gently that you are released.
I struggled until I became tired, so tired I could only gently lift myself anymore. As I did, it began to release suction. It took a “letting go” to escape it. I have never forgotten that experience. However, I was (and am still) afraid of mud.
The bitterness that tries to scar you can be like that mud. When you feel it sucking you under:
Pull yourself out.
Feel a release of the suction it has around you as you let it go—methodically and gently.
Give yourself time.