“How beautiful you are
a tapestry of scars.”-Atticus
When I was in college, I flew home for the summer. I packed up everything I owned into my luggage and when I arrived at the airport, my bag was over the weight requirements, forcing me to remove items and repack what I could. I struggled to do this–how could I choose between my Land’s End puffy winter coat and my tweed Aeropostle summer dress? I had no carry on, no other options but to leave some of my belongings behind. Out of practicality, I chose to take most of my summer clothing and leave the heavy winter items sitting in the airport while I hopped on the plane.
Going through a faith transition is messy. It forces you to unpack every single thing you thought you ever knew from your spiritual suitcase, lay it all out, and then carefully and cautiously choose what can be packed up again and placed in your suitcase, carried with you on your journey. It also dictates that must leave other things behind.
Waking up today, I see beautiful Facebook posts proclaiming, “He is Risen!” Online church services are streamed and pictures of colorful Easter baskets with green plastic straw strewn about decorate my newsfeed. Truthfully, I have struggled to fit Easter into my suitcase, just as I have struggled to fit Christmas and many other parts of my former beliefs since starting on a journey of my own faith awakening. Sometimes, I think life would be so much more simple if I just crammed these things back into my suitcase forcing them to fit somehow.
The Trauma Of Transition
A large reason for my faith transition was trauma. Spiritual abuse of the worst kind by church leaders I trusted. Physical, verbal, emotional, and financial abuse by another who claimed to “love” me. Severe, unspeakable betrayal by a friend for her own thirty pieces of silver. Blame and even mocking from others; my community essentially evaporating overnight. My beliefs followed.
Before you think this is a sad story and stop reading, I will share that I would never change these things. I would never change anything that happened to me. I would choose to go through this again and again and again. I never felt like I lived until I felt like I almost died. This is the purpose and the meaning in any transition, of faith or otherwise. To live deeper, To live truer. To LIVE.
I search for meaning in the story of the resurrection: A life renewed, a community reborn, a new hope given for redemption. These are beautiful symbols that speak to my heart. But I find myself drawn to pondering: Is there meaning in the trauma? Is there meaning in the betrayals? Is there meaning in the scars?
The Hope In The Scars
After the beaten, abused, crucified, martyed, and then resurrected Jesus appears to his disciples, The Gospel According To St. John, states,
“. . . he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.”-John 20:20
The passage goes on to state:
“Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side . . .”-John 20:25
Christ kept his scars. They serve a purpose. We so often see his scars as something meant only for the unbelieving; for those who need proof in order to come unto him. But what if the scars serve another purpose? What if his scars are meant show us his vulnerability? What if that vulnerability is needed and necessary for us to truly know him, know ourselves, and know each other?
The Power In Connection
Brene Brown may have put it best when she states,
“Connection is the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgement; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”
We as humans vitally need connection; we need love and belonging. It is perhaps the keystone of Maslows’ Hierarchy of Needs. But how do we connect with others? Brown offers the insight that it is vulnerability that paves the way for this:
“Vulnerability is at the core, the center of meaningful human experiences.” She goes on to state, “Vulnerability is not about fear, and grief, and disappointment. It is the birthplace of everything we’re hungry for.”
It our our scars, our mistakes, our blemishes, and our darkest moments that lend itself to true and genuine empathy, connection, love, acceptance and belonging–all of the things Christ taught and all of the things he embodied.
And this concept is echoed in the writings I have found great comfort in, my own canonized scriptures, so to speak, that I have adopted into my heart during a time when the typical religious narratives feel empty, like the tomb on Easter morning.
The Beauty In Darkness
Rumi eloquently shares,
“The wound is the place where the light enters you.”
Hemmingway similarly states,
“We are all broken, that’s how the light gets in.”
Mary Oliver states in her poem, Wild Geese,
“You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees For a hundred miles through the desert repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. Meanwhile the world goes on.”
Noor Unnahar declares,
“When you fall, do it gloriously, collapse like a glass building, sink like a gigantic ship and when you’re done sinking and collapsing and sinking and collapsing, build yourself with your own wreckage.” She also says “You are the peace after wars, the calm after storms, and everything insanely beautiful that shapes after a tragedy.”
Alice Walker in her poem, Be Nobody’s Darling, refers to this concept, by stating,
“Be nobody’s darling; Be an outcast. Take the contradictions of your life And wrap around You like a shawl, To parry stones To keep you warm.”
Emily Dickson succinctly declares,
“A wounded deer leaps the highest.”
And Sister Joan Chittister, offer this insight,
“Darkness deserves gratitude. It is the alleuia point at which we learn to understand that all growth does not take place in the sunlight.”
What Do Our Scars Signal To Others?
This poignant thought is even shared in Isaiah:
“. . . to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness . . .”Isaiah 61:3
No, scars are not meant to fade away into a memory or hid under a bushel. Or even to bring shame or embarrassment. Scars are meant to be shared. Meant to be gazed upon. Meant to be lessons learned; meant to be strength identified. Scars signal to others, “I have been through this too.”
And for Easter, I have found meaning in the meaningless. I have found beauty in the ugliness. Triumph in the tragedy. Connection in the chaos. Solace in the shame. Buoyancy in the blemish. Strength in the sadness. Faith in the flaws. Hope in the harm.
Because Christ kept his scars; we can too.
What a beautiful essay. Thank you for sharing. Thank for giving me validation of my own scars.
This was beautiful. My scars make me feel alone and tired. So glad your have given you hope.
These thoughts aren’t exactly the orthodox LDS religion. They do, however, seem full of truth and healing value. I am glad to have read them on Easter Sunday.
Perhaps not orthodox LDS, but certainly virtuous, lovely and of good report.
Having been through something similar, I shared similar sentiments at a testimony meeting soon after making the choice to return to full fellowship. I was quickly, publicly corrected by visiting Stake authority saying Christ is perfect. I missed the mark. But this is truth I feel in bones. I’m glad I’m not who I was before the trauma. I’d never give that up. My scars give me empathy, softness and yes, vulnerability. I love your perspective. Thanks for sharing.