Shame and Offering {The Grove: Scars}

The idea of this week’s theme came from an interview I heard last fall with a pastor. She was asked what illustrations she uses in her preaching and said she preaches out of her scars, not her wounds.

And this phrase stuck to my soul.

I’ve known for months I would be sharing with you at the Grove. I thought I’d write about how “scars don’t have to define us, but can refine us.” Michele said it more elegantly on Monday. Then I wanted to talk about how we can use our scars to comfort others. Laura beat me to it and I love what she shared. I think you can guess what my next idea was; Jessica shared about our past coming with us overseas and the role of doubt, scars, and the upside down spiritual world. Yes, yes, yes.

I’ll admit I had a small pity party. God, I’ve been thinking about wounds and scars for months and wanted to swoop in at the end of the week and be all shiny and glittery and impressive. You know. For YOUR sake, not mine.

“Apparently I wanted each author to say what she said.” God smiled, “So listen to what I have for you to say.” Okay God, I’m listening.

*****

I imagine you and God have been conversing about scars this week. Part of me wants to jump to the comments and say, “Share what you and God have been up to!” But first, here are the two main words I heard from God about scars: shame and offering.

So much of our wounding is laced with shame. Whether we’ve “brought the wounding on ourselves” or had something done to us. This leads to shame about our scars and what we think they convey.

It may be that you are not picking up on the language as quickly as others. It may be that your body is the source of shame due to disease, an eating disorder, an inability to carry a baby to full term, or a weight that’s “not right” for your culture. It may be a sexual history, educational history, financial history, or family history that has introduced shame to your scars.

Shame and isolation are two of the oldest tricks in The Book. From early on, the Accuser of our souls whispered one of two lies:

  1. What’s happened to you is so awful no one will want to come near you. OR
  2. What’s happened to you is nothing compared to what happened to her, or them, or there.

What wounded you is legitimate, no matter how big or how small. It’s not a contest. God is not repulsed by you, what’s happened to you, or what you’ve done. He loves you and wants to heal you. Not so he can “use your story.” No, just because he loves you. It’s the enemy who sees you in distorted lights. Who says you’re not fit.

Jesus gets shame. I know dying on the cross was more pain than I can imagine, but it’s the being naked in front of all those people that also gets me. He was ultimately shamed so that our shame will no longer isolate us.

My hope for you is that your zest for life (another way of saying the Imago Dei, beloved image bearer) will over ride your shame (another way of saying death).

Years ago I had an on-going butt boil that was humiliating. My behind is not my favorite asset and I lived in a part of the world where behinds were, oh say, half the size of mine and not neon white. The first 700 times I had to drop my pants, it was awful. And then I decided I was going to stop being embarrassed. It was what it was. I did not ask to have the problem in this location and I was not going to let it get in the way of me living.

I think a total of about 20 friends and acquaintances ended up changing bandages on my behind. It was a busy travel season and I showed up at more than one door announcing I’d need help changing my dressing, oh, did I mention it was on my behind? Let’s say, it’s was humbling, but the more often I did it, the easier it became.

But I get it. After the dear problem (and this was a couple of years into it reoccurring) turned into a fistula, I needed two more surgeries in the U.S. Between them I got a rash from the rubbing of the bandages. I thought my humiliation couldn’t sink any lower and the doctor kindly said, “No worries, I see lots of bottoms.”

“Yes, but I only have ONE. This is my one bottom and I am embarrassed. There is visible and painful proof I somehow didn’t care for it better!”

Shame will say, “Too bad you didn’t have a nice abscess on your arm, that’s more respectable and can be talked about in the light of day. Too bad you made it worse.” Shame goes for the jugular.

God says, “Dear child, see your scars as an offering.”

An offering that changes the story of isolation to a story of connection.

An offering that says though the story may detour through Good Friday, resurrection and life are your heritage.

An offering that says, “Me too.”

Shame is not your story. Instead we have scars to offer one another, at the right time, in the right context, for His glory and though it may not always seem, our good.

P.S. If you’re deep in woundedness, work towards healing, but don’t force it. Pain makes us so uncomfortable we like to jump over it, dodge under, pretend it’s not there, or get stuck wallowing in it. The scar will come, may the Lord right now be building a hedge of protection against bitterness and shame. Amen.

*****

This is what we call The Grove.  It’s where we all gather to share our thoughts, our words, and our art on our weekly prompt.  So join us in the comments.  Show us your art work by adding an image. And link up your own blog posts on this week’s prompt.  Click here for details and instructions.

Photo Credit: shutterbugamar via Compfight cc

33 Comments

  1. ErinMP April 2, 2015

    This is just what I needed, thank you for sharing…

    1. Amy Young April 2, 2015

      You’re welcome! I’ve been thinking so much this week about scars and shame. How some scars seem “honorable” and others “shameful.” I have a friend on the field who had a type of cancer that’s associated with a sexual past (not %100, but pretty high correlation) and she’s single. Or I know another person who got lung cancer, but wasn’t a smoker. She felt the need to clarify/justify. And these are just two examples :). Glad this was balm to you.

    1. Amy Young April 2, 2015

      Love the reminder that others have scars too 🙂 … Yes. And they probably factor into far more than we realize. Good reminder for me too!

  2. Jennifer April 2, 2015

    Scars  – Sacred Reminders of what was, and is, and yet is no longer.

    Scars – Sacred Reminders that God has stepped into our time – into our pain – into our wounds and brought his healing to the deepest parts of who we are.

    Scars – Sacred reminders that we are not alone, that even if people reject us or even just simply don’t know what to do or say, and so avoid us, God did not and does not.

    Scars – Sacred reminders that God is not seeking just to bring superficial healing or covering up of wounds and pain but embraces us in the midst of it allowing us to express the depth of the pain we feel freely to him and in accepting us, in loving us, in being with us, in the deepest part of our wounds – allowing us to know the reality of his healing touch.

    Scars – Sacred Reminders that we will never go back to where we were, it will never be the same, and yet we are not victims of what was done to us, of our experiences, but rather healed and healing survivors strengthened and prepared for the next stage of our journey and the rest of our lives.

    Scars – Sacred Reminders of what God has done and is doing and will continue to do in our lives.

    1. Amy Young April 2, 2015

      “Sacred Reminders that we will never go back to where we were, it will never be the same, and yet we are not victims of what was done to us, of our experiences, but rather healed and healing survivors strengthened and prepared for the next stage of our journey and the rest of our lives.”

      Love this!

  3. Brooke Roush April 2, 2015

    I have a really short memory. I can remember faces but usually not the names to go with them. All of this is compounded by the fact that we live in Indonesia with people whose names are completely unfamiliar to my American ear. I’m getting better, but I am grateful for the acceptable memes of Pak, for a man, and Ibu, for a woman.

    However, my memory is solid when paired with a scar. I have a 2 inch scar on my foot from when I was cut by glass at the age of 5. I remember the birthday party, who dropped the glass, what she was wearing, the temperature of the room. I remember it all. I also have a scar on my knee from when I fell in a parking lot in college, drunk and lost. I remember the snowy parking lot and flickering street lights, but I also remember the emptiness of my heart, the disappointment in my soul and the overpowering feeling of shame.

    My heart is also tattooed with the scars of life. When I was 17, my mom was diagnosed with cancer. I was friendless, in a new school and ill-equipped for the emotional strength that was required. Two months ago, my daughters and I were trapped in a public bathroom by a man who was exposing himself. The next week, a man assaulted me while I was walking on a public street. I feel those scars every time one of us has to use the toilet while away from home or when I hear footsteps behind me.

    To me, scars represent pain, shame and fear. However, they also represent an equipping of my heart, mind and body. I appreciate that my scars have led me to the healing power of Christ,  to authenticity and left me physically prepared me for scary situations.

    Scars reveal weakness. Scars can be ugly and they can be painful, even after their healing. But, scars also represent my tether to God, growing thicker and stronger with each scar…beautifully exposing the power of Christ and building bridges to people and places that were once unreachable. My scars connect me to my God who heals me.

    1. Amy Young April 2, 2015

      “I appreciate that my scars have led me to the healing power of Christ,  to authenticity and left me physically prepared me for scary situations.”

      So true! I appreciate how God can use anything in our lives. I still hate that you and your daughters had that experience. Both/And. They can prepare us and still stink 🙂

    2. T April 3, 2015

      Aargh!  I hate men exposing themselves & your daughters being there, too!  Aaargh.  Satan is just so evil.  And I’m so sorry for the man assaulting you on the street.  Aaargh!  May our loving Father continue to heal you and your girls and keep you all free of bitterness!  Have you guys all read an old article called, “Raising Radiant Daughters in Dark Places”?  I haven’t read it for years, but it has formed part of my parenting…I’m sure I have it around if someone would be interested…

      1. Amy Young April 3, 2015

        T, thanks for the books suggestion! Love me some resources!

  4. Cecily April 3, 2015

    The Lord heard my thoughts:  I wish they would talk about shame on Velvet Ashes….

    For the past month I have been drowning in shame.  And I think it would be easier if I had no fault in it.  I messed up, BIG time, in trying to salvage a faltering relationship.  I could see that the other person was not going to change, and so I was distorting myself to try to form myself into a package that they would accept.  I see now that there was no package that would have been acceptable because my friendship was unwanted.

    Why did I distort myself to try to gain acceptance, only to end up being utterly rejected by this person and her entire team?

    I’m having a really hard time in this place of shame.  It feels like it will never lift.  I have been cut off from someone with whom I wanted to connect.  They don’t want me, so why can’t I let go?  Because I am embarrassed and humiliated.  It is a situation I cannot fix.

    I am struggling to know in my heart the acceptance that the Father offers because I don’t feel accepted.  I feel unlovely, unwanted and rejected, and I feel like I go around wearing a sign, that everyone can see, that says just that:  I AM UNLOVABLE AND UNWANTED, SO YOU WILL WANT TO REJECT ME.

    May the Lord help me to wear a different sign that says:  BOTH THE ONE WHO MAKES PEOPLE HOLY AND THOSE WHO ARE MADE HOLY ARE OF THE SAME FAMILY.  SO JESUS IS NOT ASHAMED TO CALL ME SISTER.  (From Hebrews 2:11)

    1. Michele Womble April 3, 2015

      Cecily,

      Let me add that you are WANTED.  The One who makes people holy WANTS you to be His Sister.

      And – HE bears your scars.  Because He wants to.

      1. Cecily April 3, 2015

        Thanks, Michele, for speaking the truth over me.

    2. T April 3, 2015

      Cecily–we are glad you are part of our community here at VA!  And we hope that you will continue being yourself here!  Prayers for you from over here.

      1. Cecily April 3, 2015

        Thanks, T, for the encouragement and the prayers.  I definitely long for a place to belong.  Today I was reflecting on the reality that I belong to Jesus, and nobody can take that belonging away.  But He knows I also need to belong in community.

    3. Amy Young April 3, 2015

      Cecily, I am so sorry for this situation! I’m struck by the complexities of it — the need to grieve the end of a relationship and dream of what could have been in the friendship (even if it never really could have been, those dreams are very real, aren’t they?). So, the need to grieve, YET not be mired in shame. I think we all need to be gentle with ourselves when we’re in those places that we do “crazy” things (whatever the crazy is for us). In the gentleness recognize what was good — to want to be loved and connect and have friends is GOOD. And, if need be, see what got us going down a path that wasn’t the best so we can learn from it and with God’s help grow.

      All easier said than done. But as others have said, it’s the enemy who wants to keep you clothed in shame. It’s the lover of your soul, the One who delights over you, that has clothed you in his righteousness. May you walk in that truth today! 🙂

      1. Cecily April 3, 2015

        Thank you, Amy, for your compassionate response.  I needed someone to hear my cry, and here at VA my cry has  been heard and responded to in love.

        It is true that a dream has to die.  I battled for this friendship for 14 years.  And I think that is where the shame comes from.  After hoping and growing and changing for 14 years, I still couldn’t make it happen.  And, in the end, it looks like I regressed instead of progressed in the past 14 years because the win I so desperately wanted became a loss that I fought so hard to avoid.

        The reality is, though, that I KNOW that I have grown and matured in the past 14 years.  That is why I struggle so to see that this all ended in defeat.

        I am glad that you stated that we all do the crazy things when we are desperately trying to hold on to something.  And I keep telling myself that to want connection is not a bad thing.

        I am not snapping back very quickly from this blow to the heart, but I am learning much in the pain.  And one thing the Lord is reinforcing to me is how much He loves those who are the outcasts–for that is how I feel.  But Jesus went right up to the tax collector’s booth and called Matthew to follow Him.  Jesus got down on the ground and wrote therein so that He could identify with the woman caught in adultery.  And Jesus engaged in a long conversation with a promiscuous woman as He set by a well.  And so He is not afraid to come to my booth and call me out, or get down on the ground so He can be at my level, or converse with me in my place of shame.  He is a humble God who cares for the broken–and that I am.  (For surely He didn’t come for those who are well, but He came to heal those who are sick.)

        Sorry to carry on so. I see that this is a healing place.

  5. Catherine April 3, 2015

    I’ve been so thankful for the posts on shame this week. I’ve always wrestled with insecurity and shame, but those feelings have increased dramatically since coming off the field last year. Memories of flat-out failure, both on the field and long before I ever landed overseas, have been popping up constantly–often out of nowhere. It’s easy just to let myself crumble under the weight of all those thoughts, but I’m learning to fight back. These posts were a huge encouragement in the midst of the battle. Thank you!!

    1. Amy Young April 3, 2015

      Catherine, we’re so glad they were an encouragement! We seem to hold ourselves to such high standards and then swim in failure. Instead of the grand things we didn’t do, how about if we see all the small things we did do. And know that was what God asked (and asks) — small things. Amen!

  6. Christy April 3, 2015

    I’m in a season right now where the focus is all about healing past wounds and revisiting scars. A big part of working with my own scars is to accept them for what they are rather than hide them for the fear of what others would say. Much of what’s come from this time is realizing that I need to grieve and that it is okay to grieve over these scars. Why is it that we are able to accept tears that relate to physical pain but feel the need to stifle and suppress tears related to other pains like emotional and spiritual?

    While thinking through this idea I remembered seeing various posts floating around social media about stretch marks that result from pregnancy. I’ve never been pregnant but I still appreciate the new wave coming from women who recognize that those marks, those scars, are signs of pain but are even better indicators of life. When I tried to find the actual quote, I came across an image of a tattoo that read “In the end, I want my hear to be covered in stretch marks.” Other versions refer to stretch marks as tiger stripes that reflected a pain where someone “earned her stripes.” The thought led me to consider my own stripes… my scars… that show pain but also show life and growth.

    Regardless of what you call them- stretch marks, scars, stripes- I love the growing sentiment of seeing the beauty they hold in the life and growth they represent. Whether from pregnancy or woundings, scars show that we were alive enough to bleed and be hurt and that we have lived past the scar. My hope is that I will continue to grow towards loving my scars.

    I’m thankful for this week’s topic and for the women who have the courage to share their scars and remind others that scars are okay. And, even more, I’m thankful for the truth of Isaiah 53:5 that reminds us that by his wounds (the KJV version actually says stripes!) we are healed and so are our scars.

    1. Cecily April 3, 2015

      I like your discussion, Christy, about our stripes because it is for those that Jesus died.  It is hard to wrap my head and heart around this kind of love.  How can God care about my stripes–even the self-inflicted ones?  Surely there is no greater love than this!

    2. Amy Young April 3, 2015

      Christy I love the sentiment that scars point to how there was was/is life. These seasons of revisiting wounds and scars is exhausting (I hope you’re in a position of getting plenty of rest!) — but worth it. I also love the connection with stretch marks :).

  7. Kristi April 3, 2015

    Scars

    Scars

    signs of battles fought

    wars won

    reminders of healing hands

    and promises fulfilled

    fellowship in suffering

    nail prints

    and pierced brow

    shame upon shame

    naked

    and exposed

    laying aside glory

    to cover my shame

    to heal my wounds

    to give me beautiful scars

    jut

    like

    His

    1. Amy Young April 3, 2015

      I like how this ends … sounding like hammer hitting a nails.

  8. H April 3, 2015

    I’ve had a lot of different thoughts this week about scars.  They makes me think back to my freshman year of college when my life seemed to be falling apart all around me, every relationship in my life seemed to let me down, I felt like I was a disappointment to myself and to others, and I was in the middle of depression but was afraid to admit it because it seemed like a shameful thing and my fault.  In the middle of that I was angry at God, because where was his healing that I felt entitled to.  I remember one day thinking in despair that I would never feel healed on the inside.  And I decided that if I had a cut, just a small one no one else would see, that maybe as I watched it heal I could possibly have hope for myself.  But God saved me from hurt that day.  When I didn’t believe that he could or would heal me, he kept me from having needing one more type of healing.
    And over the past years, he has brought healing: to me, to my relationships, to my faith.  The deep gashes inside that seemed like they could never heal are mostly closed over now; some still have a little bruising that hurts when pressed, others are healed over and the scars even fade some.
    And I sit here on good Friday thinking of all this, and once again I’m struck by how I thought I needed a wound to be healed, and I’m humbled by the realization that I did need wounds to be healed, but not mine.  It was his wounds that have been able to make mine scars instead of festering wounds.
    I’m was also struck by this quote in this post “”He loves you and wants to heal you. Not so he can “use your story.” No, just because he loves you.”  I had read the verse in 2 Corinthians this week about how we are comforted so that we can comfort others.  And even in that truth the accuser had an opportunity and those words became like a condemnation to me as I thought of how little I have allowed that comfort to come from me.  But then I read those words, and they stopped me in my tracks.  I had to read them again.  And while there is so much room to grow in this area, with those words God’s love just hit me in the face.  Instead of his comfort being a burden that I need to repay through the act of comforting someone else, I realized it is a gift.  For me.  Because God loves me.  Which I have said I know for a couple decades, but is finally becoming more than a fact I acknowledge, but something I know and experience.

    1. Amy Young April 3, 2015

       (In my mind, I think your H stands for Honey … that you are God’s Honey. Friends have nicknames for each other and HB is Honey Bunny — so that’s how my mind works :))

      H, what a gift you’ve given us. To share both specifics in your journey and part of the journey itself. Talk about an offering! Thank you.

      I also feel like we are a precious spiritual birthing room reading your ending comments  — where something is leaving one state and entering another. It truly is awe inspiring when “facts” of the faith move from knowledge to experienced and deeply sensed truths. You are God’s beloved. Thank you for sharing!

  9. Cecily April 6, 2015

    Hi, one more time 🙂

    I shared a lot on here last week (maybe way more than my fair share!) but I wanted to say thank you and give a praise report.  Thank you to each of you who read my words and responded to me in my place of pain.  The wonderful news is that the Lord has brought healing to my heart and taken my shame away!  He used this place here where I could share the struggle, and your words and your prayers, and His Word.  He met me and carried away the shame and the pain that had swallowed me for the previous five weeks.

    I am so thankful and I wanted you to know!

    1. Amy Young April 6, 2015

      So great to hear from you again 🙂 … and not just because it’s “good news.” (Hello everyone — feel free to pop in as much as you want with comments, questions, pr requests!)

      Still, I do love a praise report! What a burden is lifted when shame is removed! Thank  you for letting us celebrate with you :).

  10. brooke April 6, 2015

    There are so many things related to Scars that pop into my mind as I read your comments.  We all have physical and mental scars. All scars begin as wounds. Some heal quickly and barely leave a mark, while others take a long to to heal and will always be visible.  We often confuse wounds with scars.  We think that our scabs are scars.  A scar is healed from the inside out.  A scab is covered externally while often festering within. A wound is open and hurting inside and outside.

    Sadly, I think that I am often calling my scabs, scars.  I think they have healed when they are really just hurting and festering inside.  Only the Lord can bring that true healing from the inside out.  Sometimes He wants us to stop what we are doing in order to heal, but we keep going and therefore it is always “infected” inside and never able to heal.

    Like any wound, the Physician prescribes medicine to constantly put on our wounds and speed up healing. The bandages cover the wounds and prevent further infection, infiltration, and irritation.  Sometimes God sends people and books and encouragement and quiet time and rest as our medicine and bandages.  When we are wounded we need to be good “patients” and allow the Physician to bind and medicate our wounds.

     

    1. Shelly April 7, 2015

      Brooke, I like the analogy of being good patients so that our wounds can be attended to, and that the bandages come in so many forms – friends, the Word, time for real rest, etc. Thanks, also, for making the distinction between “scabs” and “scars.” Scabs show progress in healing, but it’s not finished…yet.

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