Scars

It’s a shallow life that doesn’t give a person a few scars.
~ Garrison Keillor

When I was 12 years old I was in a bike accident, and life would never be the same.

For so many years I wished I could turn back the clock and relive that day. It’s July 29, 1979 and I’m airborne, speeding head-first toward the sun-hardened clay below. Instinctively, I break my fall by raising my left arm over my face. I hear a grotesque snap. My arm is broken in half at the elbow. In a daze, I rise to my feet. My sawed-off bone has broken through my skin. This is bad. Shock engulfs my entire body like a warm blanket. I feel no pain. I remember thinking, “Wow, bones really are white.” Blood quickly pools around my feet. I know I need help. Holding my horribly broken arm with my right hand, I stumble to the nearest house I can find and I pound hysterically on the back door.

In the emergency room, the doctor tells me that my arm is shattered in pieces. He looks straight into my eyes and says, Son, I don’t think I can save it.” I black out.

Five surgeries later, my arm was put back together. I was in the hospital for five weeks. During that time, doctors discovered that I had a rare kidney disorder. I would need more surgery. It turns out breaking my arm may have saved my life.

Eventually, life returned to normal, except for one thing: the scar that was left behind. It was — and is — pretty awful. I hadn’t even seen it for probably ten years before looking at this picture. Most of my life I wore long sleeve shirts to hide it. It affected my confidence and self-esteem.

Today, I have another view. I have other scars from other injuries and surgeries. My body is pretty marked up, but I am no longer ashamed. In fact, if I could go back in time, I would shrug off those feelings of inadequacy. I would choose not to look at what was taken away, but what was spared. Do I ever wish things were different? Yes. Do I look at other people’s arms and wish mine looked as good? Absolutely. But I know now that scars are not evidence of imperfection; they are evidence of healing. Scars are a part of my story; proof that no matter what bad things have happened to me, I have been carried. I have come through.

What if we looked at all of our hurts in that way?

If you’ve lived, you’ve been scarred — some more than others. The hurts of the world are cruel and random. If you’re reading this, you’ve come through. You’ve been carried. Scars are now a part of your story; an indelible reminder that you are so loved that your wounds do not remain open.

And just like my arm, we do not need to remain broken. Your story, my story, is one of healing.