"Golden Scars"

by Joanie Butman

Being part of a prayer chain brings all kinds of urgent requests to my attention, but you needn’t be on one to recognize that brokenness is innate to humanity. We are all a work in progress, constantly evolving. Who isn’t in recovery from something, being ‘repaired’ in some way, shape or form? A number of recent emails brought to mind something I learned at a retreat this winter.

Did you ever hear of Kintsukuroi? It’s a Japanese form of art that takes ordinary, broken pottery and fuses the cracks with gold resulting in a more valuable item than before it was broken. Once the item is refurbished, it takes on the identity of the restorer. It doesn’t matter where the bowl originated, where it had been or what it had been used for; it has now been transformed into a treasured Japanese work of art distinguished by the unique beauty of its flaws.

The analogy to Christianity is glaring because our God is in the business of restoration. It is only through our brokenness that we are made more beautiful and precious taking on His identity in our new, improved, repurposed condition. No longer do we hide our scars and shame but display them as a testimony to His loving hand, infusing love into our cracks making gold out of clay.

Photo compliments of Lakesidepottery.com

Photo compliments of Lakesidepottery.com

But the pot he was

shaping from the clay

was marred in his hands;

so the potter formed it

into another pot,

shaping it as seemed

best to him.  (Jer 18:4)

Christ himself has scars – not to remind Him of the pain but to remind us of His love. They remain a symbol of His sacrifice on our behalf – a permanent testimony of His undying love for us. In his book, Everything Belongs, Richard Rohr notes:

“As they were for Jesus, ‘our wounds become honors.’

The great and merciful surprise is that we come to God

not by doing it right but by doing it wrong!

Like so many others, my scars are simply a road map of my life, most of them indicating some mistake or lack of judgment. Others are simply the result of living in a broken world with other broken people where we are susceptible to all kinds of disease and heartache.

Some scars are noticeable, but the ones hidden beneath the surface are often the most damaging. Psychological and emotional scars, though not physically visible, are the ones that shape our thoughts and contribute most to the people we become. We may not always have control over the experiences that cause those scars, but we always have a choice regarding how we deal with them. We can embrace the healing process and move on, or we can resist it by picking at the scab and reopening the wound repeatedly, allowing it to fester by keeping it exposed too long. It then has the power to infect and damage everything in its path.

Therein lies the beauty of God’s grace, which allows those wounds to heal leaving a beautiful scar as a reminder, not of the wound, but of the wisdom we gained through its pain. Did you know that scar tissue is tougher and stronger than regular tissue? There is a certain power in that knowledge that goes well beyond the physical. Emotionally and spiritually, we grow and mature through our struggles but only if we choose to embrace them and learn from them.

I just finished a book called Brain on Fire, My Month of Madness, which documents a young woman’s battle and recovery from a rare disease called Autoimmune Encephalitis, commonly misdiagnosed as psychosis. It is a condition where a person’s antibodies attack their brain. In essence, her own body was killing itself. Aren’t we all our own worst enemy at times? She ends the book with a question often asked of survivors of any kind: “If you could take it all back, would you?” Her response echoes scores of others who have fought to get to the other side of their pain. “I wouldn’t take that terrible experience back for anything in the world. Too much light has come out of my darkness.”

She is a perfect illustration of a human form of Kintsukuroi – a living work of art who chooses to use her brokenness to offer hope and inspiration to others – definitely a wise choice by any standards.

The following video describes the purpose of struggles more eloquently than I ever could. It’s worth watching.