On my right foot, near the knuckle by my big toe, my skin forms a little bubble. It happened during the summer following my first grade year. I was playing basketball with my brother and his friends, the older guys in the neighborhood. As I drove to the hoop for a layup, I scraped my foot on the ground. When I looked down, there in the middle of the blood was a rock. I had a rock in my foot.
As luck would have it, my dad is a foot and ankle surgeon. As luck would not have it, he also was not home at the time. Instead, my brother and I sat in kitchen while he, a teenage boy, attempted to perform his own form of surgery on my foot. It consisted of him pulling the rock out with tweezers and wrapping my wound with gauze to try to stop the bleeding.
Over twenty years later, and I am still alive to tell the story. But there on my right foot, right above the knuckle, the little bump remains. The scar.
On the fleshy palm of my right hand right below my pinky, my skin has a permanent red hue. It was from a hot pot, but I didn’t know it was hot. The stove was off, and lights were off, and no one was in the kitchen. I wanted to make some Annie’s mac and cheese (white cheddar, obviously). There was a pot already on the stove, so I went to fill it with water. The handle was SCORCHING hot. I grabbed it quickly and mindlessly. I didn’t know it would still be hot. There was no indicator that it would still be hot. It took my mind a few seconds to recognize the pain as the heat and the weight of the pot blistered into my hand. By the time I registered the pain, and dropped the pot into the sink, it was too late. The burn was there, bad. The skin was red, scorched. The damage had been done.
That was 12 years ago, but a big red mark still encompasses the palm of my right hand. When it is cold outside it turns purple. The pain is gone. The burn is healed. But the scar remains.
When I was 21 -years-old, I was diagnosed with cancer.
Suddenly, scars were added to my body one after another, and unlike the scars before, these were not just scars caused by the day-to-day of life. These scars were man-made. They were caused by sharp scalpels during necessary surgeries. They cut into my chest to insert a port. They cut into my right leg to remove the tumor, along with a significant portion of my bone. They cut back into my chest to remove the port at the end of it all, a victory scar, at least for a season.
Then it returned. Then it spread to my lungs. They went back to carving. They cut a slit in my right side, right below my armpit. A slit big enough to fit a whole human hand into my body and between my ribs to then cut my lung, remove tumors- scars on my body that even I can’t see. But I know they’re there.
There are plenty of more scars on my body. Cancer has a way of turning you into a butcher block, a science experiment.
But each of these scars from first grade until now, they are all apart of my story, and they all tell a part of my story.
At one time, each of these scars were open wounds and continuous pains. They lingered and throbbed, and they made themselves known to me at every hour of every day. Each had their own unique pain in my life and their own unique process of healing.
My foot took weeks to heal. The process involved me constantly picking at the scab.
My hand took months to heal. The process involved oozing.
The port placement and removal took a couple of weeks to heal. The process involved stitches dissolving under my skin.
My knee surgery took months to heal. The process involved a brace to hold my knee straight and stiff for six whole weeks.
My lung surgery took months to heal. The process involved teaching my lungs how to expand again.
Every scar is different, every pain is different, and unfortunately enduring one injury, one type of pain, will never protect or prepare you for the next.
And this current pain, this open wound of a season full of prognoses, and side effects, and fear… it hurts. I can’t sugar coat it. It is a constant throbbing of my body and a constant aching in my heart.
But I know that one day, this open, ugly, constant pain will become a little more closed, a little less ugly, and a whole lot less constant. I believe that one day, this pain, this season will be a scar.
I don’t know when this scar is going to form. I don’t know what that process will look like. I don’t know if there will be oozing or reopening. I don’t know if the skin will mend together over night, if one day, I’ll just look back and notice that this open wound is now nothing but a red hue on my life.
But no matter the process, or timing, I believe healing will happen.
I believe this season, this wound will one day be nothing more than another scar. A big one, one that defines the rest of my life, but a scar nonetheless.
People can be so ashamed of their scars. People try to hide them and cover them. People don’t want to have to explain them time and time again. For a while I was one of these people. But now, I have not only accepted my scars, but I have embraced them.
Scars are just stories of healing. Scars are the stories of the things we overcome. Scars are the picture of how God redeems, restores, and rebuilds.
One day, this wound will be a scar. I look forward to telling that story.