Back in 2007, author and speaker Brennan Manning gave a conference at my church in San Diego. He spoke over the course of three days on many topics, but at the center of it all—in my opinion—was the first talk he gave, which was titled “Healing Our Image of God and Ourselves,” or something close to that. My pastor had quoted from his writings many times over the few years I’d been there, but I had never read one of his books, and never heard him speak. He was quite a character.
He wore these very old, but clean-looking jeans patched over with many different colored pieces of cloth. He had on a blue chambray work shirt and his white hair was cut short. He looked to be in his late 60’s, and his voice was somewhat slurred from his many ailments, except for when he became passionate, or was quoting scripture. Then his voice carried a bell-like clarity. I remember there was quite a line to speak with him, and I never really had the chance, though I did walk close to him at the front of the church and he gave me his signature “hi.”
Healing Our Image of God and Ourselves.
One of the stories he shared was when he was at an extremely low point in his life, he had fallen into the depths of alcoholism and homelessness. He was laying on a sidewalk near a building, I think, and a woman with a small child walked by and told her child not to look at “that filth.”
Manning’s great revelation had been that God loved him just as much in that state of disgrace as he did at the moment he was speaking at Canyon View Christian Fellowship.
I was thinking of that talk when I got out of the shower the other night and was looking in the mirror and contemplating shaving. I took inventory of my scars, and it occurred to me I was a bit of a patchwork, much like Manning’s jeans.
Scar on the heel of my left palm from broken glass—check.
Three scars on my right shoulder from my rotator cuff repair—check.
Four scars on my abdomen from my gallbladder removal. Check.
Several small scars on the back of my head from an Alaskan street. Check, again.
Many more red spots and scars on my arms, legs, and torso from my psoriasis. Checkety check.
Numerous scars on the inside, from the wounds both intentional and unintentional—sometimes those scars are the ones that hurt the most, and make me feel the ugliest.
I wished for a moment that they weren’t there—all my scars, both seen and unseen. I wanted to be whole and unmarked for my wife. My scars are ugly, or at least they make me feel that way. Always have. For the most part, they aren’t my fault, and there’s not a lot I can do about them.
They are ugly.
I stood in my bathroom and I wiped the steam from my mirror and I thought about an old man nearing home, speaking to a church full of eager listeners about how they can learn to see God differently, and hopefully also learn to look at themselves differently, through the eyes of a carpenter.
Yes, my scars are perhaps not aesthetically pleasing. But they are part of who I am. They detail my path to Christ, who has a few scars of his own.
He traded his beauty for my ugliness, my rags for his Glory.
I looked in the mirror and asked God, “Do you really love this?”
I snapped out of it without hearing an answer, and I shaved my neck and the upper part of my cheeks (if I don’t I get the bumps, man). I put on my sweatpants and a tank top and I went out to the living room to hang out with my wife a little before bed.
She was doing some work on her laptop and she looked at my for just a second. I could see the love for me in her eyes, and I knew without question where it came from. I had my answer. She put her laptop away, and as I sat down, she reached out her hand for mine.
And as I sat next to this beautiful and Godly woman that it had taken all the events of my life to lead me to, I found myself grateful for my scars.