My husband and children gave me a T-shirt for my birthday some years ago. It’s faded now and worn out from use. I don’t wear it so much these days, mostly because it shrunk a little in the wash. Instead, the T-shirt sits in a drawer in my closet. It’s hard to part with because on it are written words that fill me of hope and strength when the going gets rough.
It says: My scars are my favorite tattoos.
You see, my family knows all about my scars. My husband and children have shared in the stories. They have been there through the healing, too. Scars mark a time of struggle in our lives but also the gift of survival. And struggles fill our lives with meaning and depth instead of leaving us shallow and superficial.
One scar runs vertically down my tummy. It is a reminder that, for my twin boys—now six-foot tall strapping lads—entering the world did not begin easily. A prolapsed umbilical cord during delivery of twin number one led to a swift emergency C-section.
The comment by the doctor: “You’ll never be able to wear a bikini” had barely sunk in when we were back at the hospital again. This time both twins, at seven weeks old, were suspected to have bacterial meningitis. The words “let’s get through the first 24 hours,” a reply by the pediatrician when my husband asked if our babies would be okay, are etched on my mind as permanently as the scar on my stomach.
The minutes inched by and became hours and days. There was talk about brain damage and hearing loss until one day a visiting infectious disease doctor made a surprising detection of the coxsackie virus. All would be well—this was viral, not bacteria, meningitis.
So today, I think what the heck to a one-piece and wear my scar proudly, but I have a more recent scar. It’s another story of adversity in the form of a diagnosis of breast cancer. This time my husband, on a business trip, was on the other side of the country and moved heaven and earth to get by my side. My three young children and I spent a long night huddled together on the sofa fighting fear as the news sunk in.
Hormone treatment, surgery, radiation. We dug in for the haul.
A scar reminds us of the importance of loved ones and the love we receive—a hug, a look of concern, a bunch of flowers, a companion at the hospital, a T-shirt—and the human but God-given capacity we have to love.
A scar shows a fight to overcoming suffering with the hope of those who love us and the strength of a God who never leaves us.
Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” Deut. 31:6 (ESV)
Eventually, we heal. Scars remind us of this.