I have very few physical scars. When I was 10 years old, I tried to use my bicycle to boost myself up into the apple tree in our yard. The bike slipped and I followed, scraping my shin on the chain, ripping a gash down to the bone. I still notice the mark it left every time I pull my socks on. It reminds me that new ideas need to be thought through. Then, when I was 29, I gave birth to a gorgeous baby boy by Cesarean section. When I notice that scar, I am reminded of my sweet boy and all he's been to me in my life.
So basically, with just the two scars, I'm in pretty good shape. However, if you could look at me and see the scars of my emotional and spiritual life, I would be a hacked and bloodied mess.
I am a warrior. I don't actually remember signing up (I'm pretty sure I was drafted), but at a very early stage of life I found myself deeply embroiled in battle. The string of challenges has remained fairly unbroken. I can speculate and philosophize until the end of time about the how and why of ordinary human suffering. Some would say I attracted troubles to myself with my thoughts. Others would say it's karma, the fee for the piper's song that still reverberates from another lifetime. Some simply say, "That's life! Stuff happens because we're human and it's all a big ugly crap shoot."
I suppose if I had to try and answer the "why" of my own trials it would be a combination of those factors. Suffering is inherent in the human experience. I also can't deny the influence of time, place, and culture on my individual circumstances. And truthfully, I haven't always sowed seeds of peace and harmony, so it would stand to reason that at least a limited harvest of pain would crop up through the soil of my life by my own hand.
Don't get me wrong - I have been richly blessed and there have been many ecstatically happy times, too, but I'm just one of those people who seems to have met with my share of trials, and (I suspect) maybe even some that were intended for someone who just happened to look like me.
But I'm not unique. Not by a long shot. There are countless people all over the world and throughout time who are experiencing and have experienced everything that I've been through - and much worse. So why is it that when we are walking through the shadows that we feel so utterly alone, as though no one understands and that no help is near?
For one thing, when we are in pain, we become afraid, and that fear not only shuts us off from others who would offer help and encouragement, but it also blinds us to the good that remains, and it is that good that can fuel our will to fight our way through.
Yet there's another reason why we feel desolate in our suffering. It's because we are ashamed. We think our troubles are a reflection of our value, of our worth. After all, if we were smarter or more lovable, a better wife or mother, if we were more talented, or more favored by God, we would be sitting at the cool kid's table laughing and making plans for Saturday night, not sitting alone in a pool of our own tears.
The greater the pain, the greater the shame and the guilt, and the greater the loneliness and fear. And on and on it goes.
That's why I'm willing to show my scars. They don't make me unlovable or inferior. I am not ashamed of them. My scars are the badges of a life lived, of a spirit forged, of wisdom gained. I don't share them to garner pity or to aggrandize myself in any way. Quite simply, my beautiful scars are the evidence that healing has taken place. If I go through a trial and I come out on the other side alive, the scars I collect in the process tell the story of courage, faith, hope, and the grace of God. I know it's a story that someone else needs to hear.
Remember this: Regardless of what you see on TV and in the newspapers, not all human suffering ends in tragedy. In fact, more often than not, people are saved. Every moment of every day, we are snatched from the lion's jaw, pulled from the fiery furnace, rescued from the mouth of the whale and released from the grave. Our scars signify triumph.
Life prevails. Love saves. God heals. My scars are proof. So are yours.
Julie is the co-author of the triple-decker novel "