Just to the left of my right knee cap is an ugly scar. Though it's faded over the years, I see it every time I smooth my legs with the razor or apply lotion. It was a deep cut received from a youthful couch jumping episode while at a friends house....some kind of wire sticking out. It gashed my leg brilliantly and the evidence remains.
Scars are funny things, really. They are an outward proof of something we've endured and healed from. They tell a story, our story and are a visible reminder that some choices have consequences that cannot be erased.
The biggest hurt I have ever endured left no lasting physical reminder. My abdomen already bore the scars of having sacrificed vanity for motherhood. Those scars that tell how much I had to stretch both physically and emotionally are worn with pride (and under clothes, thank you very much!!) So nothing about my body changed when I lost Matthew. This is probably why, so many years later, I'm ready for his initial to be placed on my body permanently. I need that scar, that reminder, that visible thing to say "hey, he was here...."
Scar tissue is only formed when an injury occurs deeper than the first layer of skin. Surface hurts don't have any lingering reminders. It's the ones that cut deep, very deep, that remain. But sometimes the ones that cut the deepest aren't physical. Instead of blood, tears. Instead of stitches, grief. Instead of seeing a change from injury to recovery, we get stuck in the cycle of brokenness that leaves us more comfortable being shattered than finding the pieces will no longer fit if we try to put them back together.
I was off duty one evening when my then only child woke from his slumber and wanted a drink. I had been quilting and had my rotary cutter out. It took two seconds. I was filling his sippy cup as he was grabbing the cutter and in a split second, with both our hands on it, it brushed the bridge of his nose. The tears, both his and mine, were plentiful and to this day, a scar remains. Every time I look at it, I feel remorse. Oh, the things I would have done differently to take that scar away. But I can't, I certainly did learn from it. No child has ever repeated that injury because I replaced the cheap cutter with a locking one, that I keep up 6 feet, out of reach and when in use, the door is locked (Yeah, I tend to go overboard. It's my MO)
Of all the scars, the absolute worst isn't the deep gashes that require a million stitches and dressing changes or even surgery. The worst are the memory banks of those who saw us at our worst and won't let us forget it. Even after we've healed, moved on and learned from the injury, those that remain to remind us of those scars, happy to rip them open time and time again as we are healing. They hold us accountable (sometimes rightfully so, sometimes not) for our actions, but not their failure to keep us from injury in the first place. They saw us holding the cutter and just stood back and watched to see what we'd do....
Healing is a funny thing. It has to come from within, not from without. Even though it's the outward appearance we find so concerning, the real damage from any injury is more than merely cosmetic. Infection, improper healing and a constant abrasion of that hurt can guarantee it never heals. That we never heal. And so often its those who should be promoting healing that just don't want to....can't stand to...see it happen. Because healing happens alone. The injuries cannot be experienced by another, so neither can the healing. It's one situation where help doesn't help, but harm really harms and so you walk that line trying to make people think they have some part of you getting better....but really.....it's all you. It has to be. No one can heal for you.
But...they can show you its possible. They can flash an ugly scar on the left side of their right knee cap and say 'Hey, this sucks and holy hell did it hurt. But it doesn't hurt anymore. I survived it and it healed just fine. You will too." They can also take one look at that scar, that's been present for years and say "Hey, how'd you get that you moron. You should have known better. I bet you have more all over your body with the kind of stupid you are..." And even though that scar was fine seconds before, you will feel it all over again....
Life is too short to keep ripping scars open, or allowing anyone else to. Love is leaving healed hurts alone, respecting the work it took to get through the pain and the process and letting what happened in the past keep it's address on the timeline and not asking it to come visit for a week or two. Love is lightly brushing over those scars during a backrub and standing in awe the person made it through the injury with a story to tell and a lesson learned, not a prompt to chastise the person for having gotten it in the first place.
Battle scars...we all have 'em. Some more, some less, but not one of us escapes this thing called life without a few of them. The trick is to wear them with grace, to allow them to be a part of your story.....but not your whole story. A page, or two...even a whole chapter, but not the cover to cover reality of the person you are and the person you've become because of them. We learn, we grow, we change and evolve and it's largely because of those injuires and our ability to heal from them that we even have a story to tell at all....
So what's yours?