I was listening to an interview this morning, the subject was grief and loss, the thesis was that we will always bear scars from great losses in our lives, and we have two choices, we can either try to deny and avoid them, or we can bear them openly, knowing that their impact will change over time, but in truth they will always be with us. I have a caesarean scar from the birth of one of my twins, yes just one… that’s not the way to do it! My son Chris has scars from numerous heart surgeries, one of his brothers quite likes breaking himself and has scars and a metal plate in his foot! These are of course physical scars, but mental, emotional and spiritual scars are no less real.
A painting of mine that continues to have a great impact upon people is entitled “Even the resurrection bears scars” reminding us that the risen Christ bears the scars of crucifixion, and while outwardly physical, they must also be mental, emotional and spiritual, how could such suffering be anything but all encompassing?
The painting on a gold background is scattered with crushed rose petals and and flecked with ash the canvas is slashed into, my hope is to show beauty and glory in brokenness, I believe that this is what the resurrected Jesus brings to us, beauty in brokenness and possibilities of resurrection no matter how scarred we are. The song “Little things with great love” contains the following lines:
In the kingdom of the heavens, no suffering is unknown,
each tear that falls is holy, each heart a breaking throne,
there is a song of beauty, on every weeping eye,
for there is one who loves me, His heart it breaks with mine.”
His heart, God’s heart breaks with mine, the divine is not immune to my suffering, and suffers it with me, and obviously not only me, but with every sufferer, any who suffers in any way. The cross shows this so powerfully, Jesus somehow absorbing into himself all the suffering of the world, this is not punishment, this is compassion and empathy beyond anything we can possibly imagine. This compassion extends to the victims and perpetrators of atrocities, a topic that can be so hard to swallow, and yet grace and mercy extend to all, and in all circumstances. If somehow Christ can absorb all the horror and pain of creation into himself on the cross, a work which of course is ongoing, then that must be done in connection with both the Spirit of creation and the creator, intimately connected pouring themselves out in love. Their hearts they break with mine, with yours, with ours. We often see things in terms of right or wrong, drawing lines, erecting barriers, and of course the scars being carried and created in Ukraine at this time need us to stand up and fight for their freedom in any way we can, but in the end there will be scars on both sides, losses on both sides, and they are met by the divine with deep love and deep pain.
To take that in, and to receive the depth and immensity of it will take more than my lifetime can ever achieve, but I am trying to, partly because it helps me to bear my own scars, and partly because it helps me to be compassionate towards others where I previously may not have been. There was a time when I looked upon the cross as a place of punishment, a place where God punished his son for my sins, I was taught this and accepted it though it sat very uncomfortably, there seemed no compassion in it, no room for growth in a life filled with mustn’t and shouldn’t, and fear of breaking some unknown code or rule, and I was full of shame, shame is such a debilitating force. In this worldview scars were not to be seen, they were to be covered up, and not spoken of.
In a conversation yesterday a friend counselled me to move on, to put the past behind me and to get on with life, the thing is I have tried that before and it simply doesn’t work, well not for long anyway, the cracks begin to show and the scars remind me that I am wounded, and no amount of denying them keeps them quiet. So I have decided that I will bear my scars, I will not move on and pretend that I have not had a huge mental health crisis, I will not move on and pretend that I am feeling confident and competent, I will bear my scars honestly and openly, not dwelling upon them, not denying them either.
I suspect that all of us are on a healing journey of some sort, whether that be physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually, whether the scars we bear are deep or not, woundedness is a part of our condition, and that takes a certain humility to own. Some healing takes a lifetime, and requires us to need the help of others, I suspect most of us we need safe others with whom we can entrust our story, or parts of our story, there is a reason why Jesus took his sleepy friends into Gethsemane with him!
Our scars speak of a life lived, and can be beautiful in their own way, sometimes we need to be broken, or accept that something is broken in order to become free, sometimes things happen that are beyond our control and sometimes those things are unspeakable, I am not denying that, trauma is very real for many. This I believe is where the Christian story holds out hope, because it reveals to us the broken heart of creator, the broken body of Jesus, with its associated scars, and the compassion of the Holy Spirit, who even in situations of death, sorrow, despair, and hopelessness, can move us and create a space of joy to be alive. If She can bring back to life what was dead, what more can the Spirit do for us?!