Sometimes my kids ask me about my pierced ears. The dents where I used to wear dangly things, sparkly things, bright things before they were born are interesting, and maybe a little mysterious, and they like to see if they can remember the story I’m going to tell them and if I tell it the same way as I did last time. It’s not a long or complicated story: I used to wear earrings, but when I got pregnant with my oldest child, my skin became much more sensitive and all my earrings irritated my ears. So I stopped wearing them.
And that story is true. But the other true story about them is that those are my scars. In tribal cultures everywhere people have used scars for thousands of years to mark important transitions in life – from childhood to puberty, from adolescence to adulthood. When I was 8, two things happened: I was ‘old enough’ to decide to get my ears pierce and my parents separated (and ultimately divorced.) Partly I pierced my ears because I’d wanted to and it was girly and I got to wear pretty things. But also those physical wounds, holes in my body, were marks of the wound I had taken to the spirit, the hole in my family and self. I didn’t know that as a child, consciously. Looking back I know it beyond doubt.
I had a hard time the years I was 12 and 13, too. A lot of it had to do with my relationship with my father, although not all of it. When I was 13 I got another piercing. This time I did see it as a mark on my body, not just for fun, but at the time it symbolized my triumph over that hard year, over the hard feelings. Now I think, maybe marking pain with more pain isn’t really triumph, but at 13 I thought it was.
Maybe to become a mother in my 20s, I had to let go of those wounds. I still carry the scars on my body, but I no longer decorate them, call my own or others’ attention to them, plan how to emphasize them each day. In my body, or my mind. Trying to do that irritated me, distracted me from what I needed to do.
It makes me wonder what it would take to let go of other scars I carry in my body and soul. My chronic but fairly mild asthma might be due to allergies, but I also know my lungs are scarred with grief. My thighs and hips, breasts and back and belly are scarred with stretch marks from the physical, fast growth of puberty and pregnancy, but I also know my skin is stretched from the emotional and soul growing I did at those times. The skin on my foot and ankle is still discolored after breaking the ankle two years or more ago, even though I can walk and run and jump on giant trampolines with my kids now.
I can see the scars on the bodies of people I love, too. Sometimes I know or guess what the scars reveal about their souls; other times I don’t.
The way we see ourselves, the way we see others reflects into how we see God. I realized today that I don’t want God to be unwounded. I don’t want a God who has no scars. I do want a God who can show me how it is possible to grow beyond my scars.