Like most people who have managed to make it past childhood, I have my share of scars.
There’s the one on my chin from when I tripped myself jump-roping in gym class in the second grade. Unfortunately, I had the part of a graceful Sugar Plum Fairy (type casting!) in the school play the following night. The gigantic butterfly band-aid on my chin made it difficult for me to say my one and only line: “Hello, Santa!” I resembled a ventriloquist’s dummy when I attempted to open and close my mouth. I was so concerned about how I would be able to deliver my line that I accidentally said, “Hello, Daddy” instead. Hello, daddy. Good-bye, Broadway.
I have another scar on my left shin from where I nearly met my Maker slipping down a steep gorge at Fall Creek Falls. I was there for church camp. I’ve never been very fast in physical endeavors (but I make up for lack of speed with endurance—I am the tortoise) so I usually gravitate to the back of the herd on hikes. That places me comfortably among children, the aged, and the infirmed. On this particular hike, a pre-camper was lingering near the edge of a sheer drop-off. I pulled him out of harm’s way and slipped part of the way down myself. I employed the babysitter’s second best advice: Do as I say not as I do. My shin was sliced open by a series of jagged rocks. It was a painful limp back to the cabin.
Many of the scars I’ve collected as an adult have been through the misadventures of cooking. Years ago, I had baked two pans of coffee cake in glass pie plates. I wanted to see if they had cooked all the way through so—with hands awkwardly fitted with bulky oven mitts—I held the pan aloft above my head to check the bottom. The searing-hot pan slipped from my hands and my stupid reflexes kicked in. (Where were these quick-as-lightning reflexes when I was sliding down the side of a rocky ledge?!) I caught the pan in the crook of my arm, heard a slight sizzle, and let the pan fall to floor. It took me about two seconds to get a chunk of ice from the freezer for my arm before I joined my sister on the floor to eat the cake. (The three-second rule was in play so I had to put aside pain for the sake of coffee cake.)
My most extensive scars are seen by just two people: my husband and my GYN. Those are my stretch marks. These smooth, purple strips of ripped-and-healed-over skin cover the front of my belly like I’m wearing an understated WWF belt. I can’t remember what my stomach looked like B.T. (before twins). I look at women at the beach who are called “mommy” by at least six children (and one of which is a newborn perched on mom’s slender hip) but wear a string bikini and have NO stretch marks. Are you kidding me? How is that possible? I have a friend who swears by a cream that she rubbed on her belly for all three of her pregnancies. I tried said cream but no luck. I think you either have skin that can stretch and draw back with the elasticity of a balloon or you don’t. I don’t.
I’ve read books that have key characters with distinguishing scars. These scars define them as mistreated victims or resilient survivors or both. Sometimes the scar is defined by the other characters as beautiful and profound, but I’ve always thought it hard to imagine that the person with the scar feels fully glad to have it. But now, with a few years under my stretch mark belt, I’m starting to realize what a scar can represent.
I may have busted my chin and flubbed my lines in the second grade play but it was my first taste of amateur theater and I was hooked. (In high school, I was more of a backstage person. You can have band-aids all over you and no one will notice.)
I may have cut up my leg on that hike but I was eventually awarded a plaque that said “Most Inspirational Camper.” (It really should’ve said “Most Likely To Go To Church Camp Without Hooking Up With A Boy”)
I have lost count of all of the times that I’ve burned myself in the kitchen, but I’m happy to say that I’ve become a moderately good cook in the process.
I’m never going to be the stomach model for those antacid commercials that show an x-ray view of the churning acid that dissolves when you take Prilosec, but I carried my daughters to thirty-eight weeks. My skin stretched perfectly around them as they formed inside of me and I was glad to rent it out to them. (Though they won’t get their deposit back.)
These scars make me who I am—the good, the bad and the ugly. I’m most convinced about the necessity of scars by the words of I Peter 2. “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.”