Let’s talk scars for a minute. Have you ever thought about why they’re there and what they represent? Have you ever taken the time to study the details of yours? Maybe you have a favorite scar…one that reminds you of how much you loved to ride your bike when you were little and how long it took to perfect your balance. Or maybe you endlessly slather vitamin E and other oils on top of your scars in hopes of them disappearing.
As cancer survivors, we have scars of all kinds, most of which we don’t enjoy reflecting on or studying, and I think it’s safe to say that we are fine covering them up and hoping our future is filled with way more bike rides and far less treatments.
But today, when I came back to this very post that I started earlier this week (which was initially about how the scars that we as cancer survivors don often cause us detrimental self-esteem issues and toxic thoughts about our identity), I was overwhelmingly humbled.
Every time I read back over the word “scars” in my half-written blog a vision of the bloody and absolutely brutal beating that Jesus took before he was hung on the cross flashed before me.
The day I started that post, a friend had noticed a pea-sized red splotch on my neck that radiation gifted me. It kind of looks like a hickey so in a moment of vanity I made sure my hair covered it and went back to my desk to take a picture of it’s current status and find some sort of joke to make. I thought humor might be the best route to take for some encouragement to those that also feel some sort of way about their scars and their markings that remind them of their journey. But I came home that evening and told K.T. about the post and that I didn’t think I could finish it because I knew my scars were far less than what some stare at in the mirror every day and I had no leg to stand on on that matter.
My intentions were good, I promise, but I realized that the people that are so tragically hard on themselves need a different truth if any real change is to come. The truth of faith. The truth of hope. And the truth about eternity.
Our scars are a representation of the goodness of Jesus, not a reason to feel ashamed, y’all.
So how does that make sense?
Through cancer and everything else I’ve been through in my life, sovereignty has always been one of my favorite characteristics of the Lord. The fact that He knows each and everything that is going to happen, before it happens, and He’s had it all figured out before I was even a thought is some pretty cool junk.
As devastating as the day I found out that pathology confirmed the cancer, I was eventually able to find some peace knowing that God wasn’t as surprised as we were…in fact, He wasn’t surprised at all. Now, this is where some might say, “Well if He knew, then why didn’t He stop it?” (And don’t think I didn’t ever ask that question at some point, too). The best answer I have for that is He knew my diagnosis and my journey could be used for good…”could” being the key word there.
It was up to me to find that good and use it, and thankfully the Lord helped me position my heart towards that when I asked. But what if I hadn’t? I almost didn’t. I honestly started this blog as a sort of weird-public therapy for myself having no clue where it would go or who might read it. I just wanted easy documentation because I knew my propensity to blackout tragic things after they happened. But He saw the people that might read it and find answers. He knew the people that might read it and find Him. And He knew the people that might read it and find community.
The point is, the Lord ordered every single one of my steps and those details are now dappled all throughout various posts along the way. And for that insight, I’m thankful and I’m tethered to a quiet peace that sustains me a lot of days.
Healing…a word of many definitions.
The word means something different for each person, situation, and event. But for cancer, I think it means “progress” in one or multiple areas.
If you’re familiar with the Easter story at all, you know that Jesus was beaten, betrayed, hung on the cross, and buried in a tomb. Three days later, the tomb was empty and Jesus had risen…healed.
But what does that have to do with us and our earthly healing or lack of?
Jesus walked out of that tomb without a scratch on Him and so many of us don’t seem to be afforded that kind of miracle. Instead we may be left with residual symptoms or even continued disease. But perspective is CRUCIAL here.
In so many ways, we are just as healed as Jesus was. Stay with me…We’ll never be Jesus but there’s a point.
So Jesus offered His body and His blood. Cliff notes version is He chose to die…for us. And by choosing that, He scooped a big ole pile of yuck, pain, bad choices, dumb mistakes, hurtful words, resentment, disease, hard times, and tragedy on top of Himself. Why? Great question. Because I sure wouldn’t do that for every single human on earth and every one of them to come. Nope. But His purpose was so that we didn’t have to worry with those things. We can go on with our lives with clear hearts and minds, and start over healed if that’s the faith we choose. That’s some serious junk.
So not only did the Lord know that cancer was a part of my story and that I would go through absolute hell for some time and hopefully come out better on the other side, but He hung on a splintery cross pierced with nails so I didn’t have to worry with it. (Now, I have admittedly worried with it a time or two, but the point is, I didn’t have to).
This is a tough one in faith. There are hundreds of promises the Lord makes to His people throughout scripture. But there’s one in particular that He doesn’t promise that I had a super hard time grappling with over the last 2 years…health.
Growing up, I always thought protection meant safety and safety meant away from harm…and to me, disease was harm. So when I was diagnosed, I spent some time really angry with God, because He was supposed to keep me safe as part of this faith thing and I wasn’t “safe.” I was 28 and newly diagnosed with cancer. What in the world.
But as I’ve learned more about myself and my character and tendencies through all this, I’ve learned that I have holes in my faith and I have habits I’m not proud of that have come from other experiences. I’ve learned that faith doesn’t equal fair, but instead it always equals good and it always equals forgiven.
And for me it equals identity and purpose.
The promises of the Lord are magnificent. The things Jesus did and said on this earth are mind-blowingly extravagant and something literally no human on this earth is pure enough to continually do without eventual fault. He promises to love me always. He Loves me unconditionally. He’s always there for me. He provides perfect peace in times of trouble just for coming to chat (pray). He wants to bless me abundantly. He wants to protect me from the path I’m not supposed to walk (not the path I think I’m not supposed to walk). He promises me the reward of heaven for loving Him and knowing Him. He promises a fruitful life full of joy and blessing. And He promised that He will always be with us as He was going to the cross (even though we were the ones that hung him there).
Well what does this have to do with scars and cancer?
See that scar hooked behind your ear and down your neck? The Lord knew you would find the lump to have it removed. See those tiny hairs sprouting back up from the top of your bald head? That’s the manifestation of healing and the promise of new life. See the asymmetry of the “normal” side and the cancer side? That’s the blessing of continued purpose in living.
So today as I study my scars, I’m going to choose not to frown as I remember the heartbreak, the pain, the suffering it took to get here. I’m going to thank God that He knew the exact moment I would find out about my cancer. I’m going to find joy that He is continuing to heal my heart as well as my body. And I’m going to rest in His promises and His sacrifice so that I can live peacefully among this beautiful earth no matter what happens next. And I hope you will too.
Happy Easter, yall! From my scars to yours!
Onward and upward!
Beautiful post. I love how you said he knew when you would find the cancer and how he is protecting you from the path your not suppose to walk. I feel the same way, god is protecting me from a path that was not good for me. My sin was covering my eyes and not letting me see how beautiful life really is. Thank you for sharing this beautiful post.
Great post, Valerie. Scars come from two different sources – unintentional, like a wound; or intentional, like from surgery. Both types of scars eventually heal but they always serve as a reminder. It’s up to you what and how you wish to be reminded. I see mine and I am grateful.
The scars of Jesus Christ spell love in every possible form. He is glad to have them since they enable forgiveness and eternal life for you and me.