As a nurse, one of my primary duties is assessing patients. I need to know their current condition so I can catch subtle deviations, deviations that might indicate an impending deterioration.
I also need to know the medical history. Previous problems can provide important clues to what is happening with a patient. I gather the medical history by reading the physician’s history and physical (H&P). But, the H&P is only as accurate as the people giving and recording the information.
I often enter a patient room with an idea of a patient’s background. And then I see their skin and the tell-tale scars that tell a story of their own.
When I see a small, straight incision in the center of the lower back, I know the patient has back problems and has undergone some type of lumbar surgery.
A scar to the lower right abdomen usually indicates and appendectomy.
A patient who has a large, central abdominal scar has undergone some type of major abdominal surgery.
With the introduction of laparoscopic and robotic surgeries, a patient may have four small scars scattered across the abdomen. These could indicate gallbladder, hysterectomy, varicocelectomy, or any number of other surgeries.
Then there’s the sternal scar stretching from just below the neck to the abdomen. It’s a clear indication of open heart surgery.
When I was little, my mom had a large abdominal incision, the result of two c-section deliveries, a scar that is an indication of precious lives entering this world (including me!). Interestingly, in her scar she had some extra indentions. I always thought she had three belly buttons. They actually fixed her scar with her last abdominal surgery and she now has nothing but a normal scar.
I’m fascinated by the story told by someone’s scars. I’m amazed what I can learn about them simply by a quick assessment of their skin.
My physical scars are few and mostly faded. I have scars from four surgeries. I had all three of my children via c-section, all three children delivered through the same incision. Three surgeries, one scar that has faded drastically over the last 13 years. And last summer I had a laparoscopic surgery. Those small scars are still pretty red, fairly obvious to anyone looking at my abdomen.
But what about our emotional scars? What stories do they tell?
The last decade I have walked through many traumatic events. Adultery. Divorce. Financial ruin. Betrayal at many levels. Death. Rejection. The scars on my soul are many. The pain seared into my mind. The emotions often surfacing at the most inopportune times.
Some of the scars are old, faded now as the years separate me from the pain. Some are barely visible from the surface as they begin to blend in with the rest of my life.
Others are still fresh and red, in stark contrast to my life. They are obvious to anyone who knows me. They stand out, affect the way I think and act.
I’m often asked how I can be so open about all I have walked through. Many people are embarrassed to admit they were the victim of adultery; they remain buried beneath the shame and rejection. Others are afraid of the criticism they will face for speaking out as a divorced Christian, knowing they will be judged because they weren’t strong enough to stay, to keep praying for reconciliation in the face of untold emotional abuse. Many hide their scars, afraid to let the world see what they have walked through.
But I’ve learned my scars also tell the story of God’s faithfulness.
They tell the story of how God picked me up from the heap of garbage, cleaned me up, and made something beautiful from the pain of my past.
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28
My scars tell the story of redemption, of how all things have been made new in God’s time and in God’s way.
Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. Ecclesiastes 3:11
My scars tell the story of hope, of bringing beauty from the ashes.
To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory. Isaiah 61:3
My scars tell the story of one who overcomes.
But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world. 1 John 4:4
My scars tell the story of perseverance.
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. Romans 5:3-5
My scars tell the story of resurrection from the death of adultery and divorce.
But when Jesus heard about it he said, “[This] sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.” John 11:4
My scars tell the story of a power that is greater than anything we could ever imagine.
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Ephesians 3:20
Ultimately, I have no choice but to tell the world about my scars, about the pain and anguish I have survived because my scars tell the story of God’s goodness toward me. I have no choice but to let the world know what I have walked through because I want the world to know how God has blessed me. I have no choice but to tell my story because it’s the story of a God who has given me so much.
Our scars tell a story, a story that only God could write. Will you tell your story?