The Freedom of Scars

We’ve been talking about freedom at Resonate church the last several weeks. As a childhood sexual abuse survivor, it’s something I think about a lot. A couple weeks ago was especially poignant, because the pastor talked about two longtime companions of mine: guilt and shame.

One thing in particular that hit home was when he talked about our part in the healing process. That too often, we wait for God to swoop in and do all the work for us, and how that’s not really how it works. We have parts to play in our own healing.

To be fair, I think we got this impression from a lot of popular but bad theology hidden in sermons and songs. The idea is a cousin of the prosperity gospel that has crept into even mainline preaching: if God is not moving, it’s because you aren’t listening, that you don’t have enough faith. In other words, that you don’t experience freedom from the things you’ve done — or even from the things that have been done to you — well, that’s really on you. You just don’t trust God enough. And the very thing that is supposed to bring you freedom becomes another source of guilt and shame.

In Vicky Beeching’s book Undivided, she talked about a type of pottery called Kintsugi. It’s a Japanese art form that repairs broken pottery with a lacquer that is mixed with precious metals, such as gold or silver. The results can be stunning.

 This piece uses Kintsugi: the Japanese method of repairing broken pottery with lacquer mixed with powdered gold. / 14 November 2018 /Ruthann Hurwitz

But it is not just pottery repair method; it is an art form. And it is not just an art form; it is a philosophy. And it is one that deeply resonates with me. After several weeks of thinking on it, here are a few thoughts:

Broken things (and broken people) aren’t trash. We are not disposable. We don’t discard someone just because he is damaged; we fix him. And we don’t go cheap when we fix them either. We use the best materials, the most valuable materials. Why? Because they are worth fixing.

The scars are what make us beautiful. You don’t get broken by hiding on a shelf. You get broken by risking, by loving, by caring, by serving, by giving. It is the cracks and chips that come from being vulnerable that allow space for the golden resin, that allows the potter to say “this bowl is precious. She is worth my time.”

When we refuse to hide our scars, we can become a catalyst in someone else’s healing. As a child sexual abuse survivor, I can say with some authority that one of two big lies they try to tell you to shut you up is that you are alone. That you are uniquely damaged, and that damage makes you unpresentable. Those words are just that: a lie.

The other lie they try to tell you — and that you tell yourself — is that your scars are your fault. But not only is this is lie, it’s not even a good lie. Because it focuses us on the wrong question.

Sometimes, we are broken as a consequence of our own choices. Sometimes we are broken as a consequence of other people choices. And sometimes … well, sometimes it is a mixed bag of responsibility. But except in a judicial setting, the question of “whose fault is this?” is not terribly relevant. What is relevant is that you are broken. What is relevant is that you can be repaired.

Don’t take any of this to mean that it is a good thing you were broken. One of the worst bits of pop theology is the misuse of “all things work together for good,” which is right there next to “God will never give you more than you can handle” in the list of Christianese phrases that have exceeded their shelf life.

I was raped as a child, and it was a shitty and a wrong thing to happen. No one should have to go through that. It broke several things in me. What was done to me was not “good.”


But neither is being broken “bad.” It just is.

It is telling that the resurrected Jesus still had scars.

And the question becomes: Where do we go from here? To the shelf to hide? To protect yourself from every being broken again?

Or to the potter for repair? And then to the display shelf that says “these scars are proof that I was struck down, but I am not destroyed. I am victorious.

I think it is telling that the resurrected Jesus still had scars. They didn’t magically go away when he walked out of the tomb. They were evidence to his disciples that this risen Savior was the same Jesus who suffered and died. They prove that his suffering mattered. That it wasn’t forgotten. But neither were those who inflicted the suffering victorious. The scars were evidence that he was stronger than the thing that killed him.

Your scars are proof of the very same thing. So don’t hide them. Tell the stories of your scars. They are what makes you beautiful. They are proof that you survived. Proof to yourself, and proof someone else who feels alone right now. Who feels broken. Who feels that the cracks and chips in them invalidate them as people. Who feels they will never be useful again, never be beautiful again. That too is a lie.

You are beautiful, and you are victorious.


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