A Brand New Scar…


Talis2

This past Sunday I came clean about something I did the prior weekend.

What I told them doesn’t usually come out of the mouth of your typical 44 year old Pastor. Some would even say they wouldn’t imagine it of me, even if they had 1,000 years to do so. In that light, I am positive that this confession is sure to be yet another thing to add to the list of what we use as examples to testify that we are not the typical church, we serve without your average pastor, and we enjoy living outside of the box.

Last weekend, I did something that has changed me forever. I did something that would likely cause me to have a minor stroke if either of my girls decided to do the same. Not a minor stroke, but an absolute conniption. If I had done it when I was 18 or 20, it would have unleashed my parents ‘holy hell’ for sure. A part of me hesitates even to come clean.

For some who have done what I did, it is an act of rebellion or nonconformity. For me, it is neither. It is more about celebration and strength than thumbing my nose. It means something different.

Last Saturday, with all three girls in attendance, I sat on a folding chair as a piece of art was forever etched as a tattoo into my shoulder. The drawing above is that image.

Thanks to my eldest and her IPhone I have some photos that capture that moment:

tatday

Now many of you are probably asking why in God’s name did I do this?

Well, to that answer there is always a story.

As you know, my family has gone through all types of turmoil over the last year. Today, thankfully it appears as if it is over, and we are on our way back to normal. Looking back on all that had happened, I will loudly state stealing the words of another church member, the breast cancer that sucker punched my wife, and shook our life was not a blessing. Despite that sucker punch, It did indeed reveal many. Not least of those blessings was the strength of family revealed in a terrible time.

Since the early days of our relationship, my wife has always known about my desire to one day get a tattoo. Finally for my birthday she gave me her implied permission along with a gift certificate to do just that. In the weeks that followed the four of us discussed what I should get, and we talked about those things that we would like to celebrate permanently. In the end, It was obvious that there was only one choice for me; I needed to pick something that declared the power of our family.

It was Stacey that first put forth the idea of a family crest or monogram tattoo. She suggested that perhaps we could figure out how to interweave our initials. Our resident artist, Sophie, took that ball and ran with it. In a few minutes, she had some sketches, and from there I tweaked it a little. When Annie saw it, she approved declaring that because the ‘A’ was most prominent, it was okay with her.

Over the next few weeks, we tweaked and re-tweaked the part that matters most; a continual line that forms our initials. Our monogram, or this family crest, was not going to be four separate letters but one. It would be one line, without beginning or end that form this design. That line, like my wife first and foremost, and then like our family, would be unbroken and unbreakable.

The resulting sketches became the template for the colored scars that now have a home on my shoulder. Together we went to the parlor, and they watched as I sat with fist clenched, as slowly, and deliberately the artist colored my arm. In an hour, the sketch was done. It is permanent.

Minus a few moments since then, where I have found myself saying; what did you just do?, It is slowly becoming a part of me. Today, any pain that came with it has all but subsided. With each passing morning, I am slowly getting more and more used to seeing it as I hop out of the shower.

I can tell you, without hesitation, that the tattoo, although capable of being well hidden, is certainly not subtle. In the end, I did not want it to be. I catch it from the corner of my eye as I ready myself for my day, or de-stink after working out, and it’s a reminder. Although I can hide it from all parts of my day, I know it’s there.

Now, you do as well. As a matter of fact, this post is my ‘coming clean’ moment for those who might not have been in attendance when I shared it to the church. I had originally intended to keep its existence a secret, but found I didn’t want too. Why hide a celebration?

I do recognize it is a bit out of the box and a rather odd way of celebrating this journey. At the same time, there was something bigger that is hard to explain. For me, part of the tattoo is about recognizing that my wife, my family and I have finished an incredible journey. At the same time, a new one has just begun. As this new begins, we have no clue whether it will prove easier or just as scary, but in the end, we know it will not break us.

The tattoo is not only about a lesson that I want to celebrate, but it is also about something very hard to name. It is about the relief that comes with arriving at one destination on a life-long trip. It is about the excitement of right now mixed with equal parts hope and fear about what is ahead. Most importantly, it is about that all that matters to me, and all which I treasure.

Getting this thing on my shoulder was about declaring to my girls and then to all who might see it later, that our family would not be broken. It’s about the conviction that despite whatever challenge the ugliness of the world lays before us, we will not break. As long as we hold onto each other we will be an unbroken one, and no person, nothing, no hurt, no tumor, no moment, or no series of roadblocks, bumps, and sucker punches are ever going to change that.

There are two things that allow me to know without any doubt that all things are possible in this world; family and faith. A reminder of the power of my family now resides on my right shoulder. Although there is nothing there now, when I figure out what image will capture my faith to its fullest, it will go on the left. In the end, they will be my reminders; my bookends.

As I have come front and center with this decision and the logic behind it, I have also realized that it can also be the perfect segue into something more than just a confession. Understanding the rocky roads we are all on, and instead of focusing on the self-inflicted scars upon my shoulder, I want us to take a moment and consider something deeper; the scars that mark us that we don’t choose. I want us to consider those scars.

As we take this dive and begin to talk about those hurts, I want to be very careful and very clear to put the art of my shoulder into its proper perspective. I acknowledge that an uncomfortable hour in a chair and a week of raw and hurting arm does not compare to the hurt, and pain that each of us inevitably face in our lives. These scars that I now refer to are not those that we add willingly or joyfully. They are the scars that we would give anything to avoid or remove. Most times these scars are ones that we try to hide.

The scars that we find ourselves with are often deeper and darker than strangers could ever imagine. They are certainly more intense than what can be delivered at the end of a tattoo gun on a Saturday afternoon. These scars change us at our core. These scars usually blur the real person we are. Sometimes they never heal, never stop hurting, and are never forgotten.

We hide them. We cover them up and hope that they cannot be seen. Sometimes the only one who even knows they are even there are us. When they are ours, we cannot miss them no matter how hard we try. Then again, sometimes we refuse to see them.

When it comes to the harshest of scars, I think of a friend who was abused as a small girl. The horrific scars inflicted upon her by the evil actions of a sick relative, somehow found a way to be hidden deep down. It was like they were forced down with both hands. On the surface, no one knew they were even there; not even her. It wasn’t until years of broken relationships, trust issues, and endless hurts did the scars – and in the end what caused them – start rising to the surface.

I think of a friend who first scar arrived when he made a colossally bad decision as a young man. A second came with his unwillingness to let that mistake go. The scars have piled up since then. Today, his scars are easy to see and even easier to name. His scar is named alcoholism.

I think about a beautiful middle aged woman lost a loved one in a way that most of us could never imagine. She refuses ever truly to get close to anyone because of the fear of it happening again. She has decided to be alone rather than begin peeling back those scars. She spends every single night subtly trying to convince herself that being alone is better. She sees a world that affirms that with every step.

In the light of these hard stories, I don’t want you to think that these types of scars are the only ones I refer to. I want us to consider the scars we carry. Our scars might not be as easy to trace as the stories I have shared. Our scars also seem to be collected over time.

These are the scars that result for a lifetime spent wishing you were stronger, braver, or willing to take risks.

These are the scars that began collecting each time that you said no to something, someone, or some opportunity, and you have regretted it immediately.

These are the scars that come with never speaking up for yourself, or for someone else for that matter.

These are the scars that come when you should’ve walked away, but couldn’t, should have stood firm, but folded, or let words fly when you should have been silent.

These are also the scars that others have decided we needed.

  • Maybe they arrived with the ugly or careless words of someone you loved.
  • Maybe they came when you were wishing for someone to be there for you and realizing that they never would.
  • Maybe they came when that thing that you loved, wanted or dreamed of was violently ripped from you.
  • Maybe they came when the church, friend, or family failed to stand up for you when you needed it the most.

Those scars may be more of the more subtle variety, but they are just as deep and hurt just as much. You think these are easy to hide, but in reality you can’t help but see them from time to time. Then when you do see them they bring your right back to that ugly moment. You find yourself right back in the sadness, regret and heartbreak of that hurt. Worse still is that in our mind’s eye, they make us see ourselves as the dirty, the unclean, the broken, and the too far gone.

Too often we can only see the world through the scars. From that vantage point, everything is tainted. You see a world that is bound and determined to cut you down, to take you out at the knees, to punch you in the gut, to discourage, depress and disappoint.

They tell you that someone is planning to do it again. They tell you that if you let your guard down the world will cut you. Your scars have you convinced that the world is sabotaging your every step, and you need to protect yourself.

The world seen through the scars is short sighted, empty and hollow. You sacrifice who you are or who you can be, because you don’t want to get hurt. The scar will find you a way to yell for you to sit down and shut up because its just going to happen again. Our scars are born in a world of hopelessness, doubt, anxiety and fear.

It’s a world that looks at God and demands answers.

  • God why did you allow this to happen?
  • Why was he allowed to hurt me?
  • Why was I so stupid?
  • Why didn’t she get punished for what she did?
  • Where is the justice is this world?
  • Why do I have to work so darn hard, at yet I still get hurt, over and over and over again?

In the light of the pain that these questions reveal I want you to hear something better, something bigger, and something exponentially more life changing. I want you to hear the Good News. I want you to hear the Good News that says that because of that peace, hope and promise we share that we can, once and for all, see the world through a different light.

Instead of seeing the God through the scars, we are called to start seeing the scars through God.

  • Yes, the world tried to break me.
  • Yes, I have been hurt.
  • Yes, I have scars that tell an ugly story.
  • Yes, there is fear in my heart.
  • Yes, my heart has been broken.
  • Yes, I have run away.
  • Yes, I have been silent.
  • Yes, I have treated others without compassion or grace.
  • Yes, I have been treated without both.
  • Yes, there are memories that make my eyes water and my knees shake.
  • Yes, I have been beat down, trampled over, step on and kicked.
  • Yes, there are things I would give anything to do over.
  • Yes there have been things that I have done that have revealed my weaknesses and shortcomings rather than the strength of my character or my heart.
  • Yes, I have been pushed, poked, prodded, slapped, spit on, cursed at, forgotten, mistaken, misjudged, misguided, misinformed, and lost.

Despite all these things, the good news is that we are standing here, scars, and all. The Good news is that we are strong today, precisely because we know what it is like to be weak, to falter, to doubt, to cry and to hurt.

  • The Good news is that we know what it means to be lost because we have been found.
  • The Good news is that despite all these things – the good and the bad that which we have done and that which has been done to us – the scar doesn’t win.
  • The Good News is that the scar will never have the last word.
  • The Good News is that we are not alone, not cheapened, and we are not broken.
  • The Good News is that these ugly and ragged scars we carry are our reminders that we have been healed, made new, and that we still stand strong.
  • The Good News is that our scars remind us that we have not been forgotten, forsaken, or left to our own.

In the end, the scars become the real reminders of the hope, promise, grace, and peace found in our Gospel.

To that; all I can do is rub that scar and offer my thanks be to God Amen.

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