October 29, 2013


I have worried too much in my life, even about little things such as scars. As ridiculously vain as it may sound, the imperfections of scars annoyed me, for they told the secrets of my less-than-graceful moments.

At the end of my sophomore year of college I shattered my patella while horseback riding. The orthopedist offered me a choice: surgery or take my chances with casting. The former choice, he added, would leave a visible scar. I found myself in the casting room moments later. Why? Because scars scared me. That changed one day when my perspective shifted through the words of a dear friend.

Kimi was one of my roommates in an apartment of four during a mission service year in Pohnpei, a Micronesian island in the Pacific. After a day of teaching, the four of us could often be found discussing life. On this particular day I was selfishly lamenting over yet another scar when Kimi nonchalantly said, “Scars just mean you lived.” I don’t think I ever told her how much those words meant, how they changed my view. But it was true. Scars have a way of telling a small piece of our life story. The scar holds a memory, an adventure, a risk, and a point in time. To live greatly, scars are often required.31 1 4

However, scars run deeper than mere discolorations or raised, jagged lines on the surface of your skin. Emotional scars cannot be hidden. The face speaks volumes from stone-cold eyes to a single tear to a grimace to a furrowed brow to disengagement, etc. And sadly, our world is full of such scars.

While I have learned to take Kimi’s advice and accept my external scars, I find myself reserved in other venues of life. I’m honored to hear others candidly express their stories, yet I often limit what I share. While grateful that life has been kind to spare me from the jading of emotional scars, I continuously find myself putting up walls. Perhaps it’s my personality, or perhaps my old fear of scars overshadows things. I build walls because walls prevent scarring. 

Walls also prevent you from living fully.

There are survival scars. When I consider the cancer survivor, the multitrauma survivor, the prisoner of war, the mother saving her child, I see their scars as badges of honor. They have conquered their scars and emerged stronger than before. I find myself admiring their characters, and the scars suddenly look beautiful.

When I ponder what it means to live a truly great life of valor, of honor, of compassion, and of altruism, I think of Christ. Then it struck me. Christ’s perfection allowed His hands to be pierced and scarred by nails in order to save us, to erase our filthy scars eternally. His scars removed ours. Now, His scars remain in representation of the gift. I picture Christ’s hands in my mind, and I’ve decided His hands hold the most beautiful scars our world has ever seen. I keep thinking that I should not let the beautiful scars be without cause. Perhaps I should give more. Perhaps I should risk more. Perhaps I should stop letting walls prevent me from living an authentic life of purpose.

Kimi was right. Scars mean you lived. I understand now what I could not before: scars hold true beauty. And I need to wholeheartedly clasp Christ’s scarred hands in thanks.