Shining up Our Scars

This is from “Stuff Christians Like.”  I hadn’t read it before, but it floored me.  So awesome:

Thursday, July 17, 2008

#349. Shining up our scars.

I don’t remember what it felt like when the steel bar tore through my face. The moment it happened my body was flooded with adrenaline and I got drunk on survival. I hit the ground running, streaming blood from a wound that would require plastic surgery and hope. But I probably need to back this story up.

In the seventh grade I was in love with my Santa Cruz Rob Roskopp skateboard. It was my whole world and one day I thought it would be fun to jump off a concrete loading dock at a factory. The plan was to grab what I thought was a stable bar and swing from it while my skateboard sailed off the four foot drop.

Unfortunately, they load and unload things on loading docks and the bar was unattached for convenience. When I grabbed it, the bar fell immediately, catching me squarely on a nose that would never be the same. I could have been killed, the force of the blow sandwiching my head between the loading dock and the steel bar. The doctor said I could have lost all my teeth but they were anchored in from the braces I had received a week earlier.

So for a few crazy seconds I ran through the streets, my face in my hands, my blood on my arms, while cars streamed around me angrily reacting to what they thought was a teenage prank. Finally, a red pickup truck stopped and gave me a ride.

Some of that day has begun to blur, the edges becoming fuzzy under the weight of so many years. But one thing I will never forget is the look on the driver’s face when I gave him my assessment of the accident. I clearly remember his expression, when I turned to him and said, “I hope it’s just a bloody nose.”

That was foolish. It ended up taking dozens of stitches to keep my nose on my face. My cheekbones were fractured. Years later I had to get plastic surgery to stay pretty. It was a serious accident.

And yet I told a stranger it was perhaps a bloody nose.

I think we do is exactly the same thing sometimes in Christianity. We take the blood and gore of our lives, the sin and the failure and the hurt and the horror and we tell everyone that everything is OK. We use the Christian F word, “fine,” and keep moving on with our lives. We hide the bad stuff and highlight the good stuff until no one can tell that things aren’t perfect. We shine up our scars until they look good enough to not be considered scars.

I don’t know where this temptation comes from. It might start the minute you become a Christian. It can be such a powerful, life transforming experience. Things feel different, you feel alive sometimes like you’ve never felt before. And when the gross creeps back in, when the high of a retreat wears off, when reality comes back and we realize we can’t be perfect for the rest of our lives, we get afraid. We fear that our initial moment of faith was fake or not good enough. It didn’t “count.” Christianity “didn’t take” to us. And so instead of telling people we know that things are bad, that we are still doing things that are opposite of what God calls us to, we sweep it under the rug. We take our first hit of the very dangerous drug called “Hide.”

Or maybe it happens when we go to a small group and people confess “safe sins.” Those deserve their own post but this is when someone shares, “I have to confess something. I have not been reading the Bible enough or praying enough or nursing enough baby birds back to health. I’m so ashamed.” Meanwhile, you’re thinking about that time you had sex before you got married or why in the depths of your heart you hate your parents and suddenly those things feel really bad. For although reading the Bible more and praying more are to be highly desired, when they’re presented in the form of a confession they often silence the real in the room.

I intended to make this chapter 3 of the book but felt like more people than the mailing list might want to read it. And there are some posts that are heavier to carry than others. I did not run in from mowing the lawn when I thought about writing about side hugs for instance. But last night, while out in the yard trying to think of a Bible verse to illustrate this post with, I felt like God threw a not tiny grenade in my head.

Even though I wanted to wow you with lots of Bible verses, the idea I came in, covered with grass and dirt, to scribble down was a lot simpler than that. And it’s really just a question.

Have you ever thought about what type of party the father threw the prodigal son in Luke 15?

I didn’t until last night. I didn’t see the implications for you and me until I thought about shining my own scars. But you know what the prodigal son gets when he comes home? A welcome home party. The father doesn’t throw him a “you never left” party. He doesn’t call the servants excitedly to get things ready for the “everything is fine” party. Not at all, he makes a point of saying, “Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’

He says that twice. Once to the servants and once to the older brother. The father got it. The reason to celebrate was not that things were perfect. It was that the son had been lost, voluntarily so, and was now found. He had been willingly dead by leaving but was now alive. The fact that he had blown it, the fact that the son had broken his life was not a source of shame, it was a cause to celebrate. The gross of being lost and dead was part of what made the reality of being found and alive so bright and true and undeniable.

This is longer than I intended and I don’t want it to sound like I’m saying, “you’re smart enough, you’re good enough and dog gone it, people like you.” The truth is that I don’t know your story. And I’m not telling you to get into a “look how bad my past was” contest with other people. I don’t know what kind of baggage you’re carrying right now or what kind of scars you’re shining. I don’t know if you hate God or left the church years ago for some really valid reasons. Maybe you’re supposed to send this to a friend. I don’t know your story, but I do know mine. I used to write church prayer devotionals during the day and take ecstasy at night. I mortgaged years of my life to things that wrecked me. I’ve been a sucky husband, a bad dad and an embarrassing son. But you know what? God loves me.

Stop shining your scars. It’s OK for them to be painful. The things you did and the things you had done to you hurt and admitting that out loud doesn’t add more failure to your heart. If anything, it creates a lighthouse of sickness in you for the doctor that came looking for the sick, Jesus.

We’re having a welcome home party. And it won’t be nearly as fun or as sarcastic or as interesting without you.

The Nail Man

Which one was it
that held the nails
and then hammered them
into place?

Did he hit them
out of anger,
or a simple
sense of duty?

Was it a job
that had to be done,
or a good day’s work
in the open air?

And when they
clawed past bone
and bit into wood,
was it like all the others,
or did history
shudder a little
beneath the head
of that hammer?

Was he still there,
packing away his tools,
when ‘It is finished’
was uttered to the throng,
or was he at home
washing his hands
and getting ready
for the night?

Will he be
among the forgiven
on that Day of Days,
his sin having been slain
by his own savage spike?

-Steve Turner


St Patrick

Lorica of Saint Patrick


I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth and His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion and His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection and His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In service of archangels,
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In preachings of the apostles,
In faiths of confessors,
In innocence of virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me;
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s hosts to save me
From snares of the devil,
From temptations of vices,
From every one who desires me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a mulitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and evil,
Against every cruel merciless power that opposes my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of women and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul.
Christ shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that reward may come to me in abundance.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through a confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation

St. Patrick (ca. 377)


Give me apathy, or give me death

Sometimes I wish I cared about things a little bit less.  I think about that  a lot when I have to listen to giant-sized portions of political rhetoric, which is fairly prominent around this time of year, especially what with the Presidential race and all.

I never thought of myself as politically-minded prior to fairly recently.  And I still can’t think of many things I dislike more than talking about politics.  But with that said, I still want the best for my country, because I love it.  I just think some of the people that live here get a little confused sometimes.  All I’m really hearing about this current election is “change,” and “end the war.”  All that.  OK, what change?  And sure, I’d love to end the war, and bring the troops home.   But at what cost? Look what happened in Somalia in the early 1990’s.  We sent in the Marines, and they did their job.  People ate, and lived, and some small measure of order was restored.  Yet right after they were pulled out, the country fell once again into disorder, and Mohammed Farah Aidid started slaughtering and starving his own people to further his own agenda.  So we sent in the Rangers to restore order yet again, but we did not allow them to do what needed to be done.  Instead, we hamstrung them with rules of engament, and a bunch of them died.   But what if we’d maintained a Marine presence for a little longer?  What if there had not been such ridiculous rules?  What if we’d better trained the UN troops that were there to do things like, oh, fight (but don’t even get me started on the darn United Nations). 

Anyway, what happened is that the Marines were yanked out, and all heck broke loose. Still is.  Mogadishu is the wild west (and does Hollywood even think about what would happen in Darfur if we pulled the troops from Iraq or Afghanistan and sent them there?  Oh, they’d stay for a while, and then leave.  And the crap would hit the fan.  And the cycle would begin again…)

People argue quite fervently that the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan serve no purpose other than dying for something that isn’t worthwhile, and fighting for a cause that has no direct consequence in the U.S.  Well, I’m sure the soldiers don’t feel that way, or at least most of them.  And the last time I checked, we still had a volunteer armed forces.  We do not have a despot at the helm, conscripting young men and women to exact personal vengeance, or fatten his personal coffers (like Aidid in Somalia).

And what about the Iraqi people?  The men I’ve talked do that have done tours in the gulf report an entirely different story than the liberal minded media would have all of us know.  These people do not think we’re there for no reason.  And who am I to question someone’s willingness to go across several oceans to ensure my way of life is protected?

So what if Saddam Hussein did not personally fly one of the planes into the World Trade Center.  All I know is that since our military has been enforcing peace through strength, there hasn’t been another attack on American soil.

Unless, of course, you count the ones by ultra-left organizations such as the reprehensible “Code Pink.”  These people are disgusting, and demean our armed forces by doing things like vandalizing recruiting centers, to name but one.  It makes me sick, but it also makes me angry.

These folks ignore the fact that the sole reason they have the legal and protected right to engage in that very act is because our armed forces have given it to them.  What shall we do?  Huddle in our nice warm country and wait for the war to come to us?  It already has.

and then you see so many celebrities pitching fits about Darfur.  Yes, that’s a terrible situation.  Yes, it’s genocide.  Yes, it should stop.  But does that fact make what was (and is) happening in Iraq and Afghanistan any less horrible?  Is murder and repression different in other parts of the world?  More acceptable in some places than others because it occurs in less dramatic numbers over a longer period of time, or does not involve as much starvation?

Anyway, the short version is that I care about my country.  And if you do, too, then you need to do what you can.  What you can do is vote, and you can ask questions of the people that are running the country.  They’re answerable.  Nothing wrong with asking questions.

But so much of the things you see happening now, both in the media and in the country at large, are not just people asking questions.  It’s attacking people that are willingly going into harm’s way on our behalf.  It politicians crying out for change, but not backing up their outcry with a specific solution. It’s misguided and half-assed judgements made based on parroting another’s opinion.

My God, I could go on for hours.  Just look into what’s going on, is all I’m saying.  Don’t take anyone’s word for anything.  Form your own opinion.  Don’t let your life be ran solely according to party lines.  Do the best you can for  yourself and your country.

to be continued….