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Friday
Nov022012

God's Tattoos, A Reflection on Scars

Tattoos are stories you've chosen.  Scars are stories that choose you. They are evidence that your journey didn't quite go as planned. That God pitched you a curveball. No one plans on a scar unless you have plastic surgery, and even then the goal is to hide it as much as possible.
One of the most rewarding experiences of my life has been working with wounded warriors of The Iraq Star Foundation and The Tempered Steel Organization. Many of the troops have had tens or dozens of surgeries. Some are blanketed with scars. It is my job with Iraq Star to help guide troops injured in Iraq or Afghanistan through free reconstructive surgery. For Tempered Steel, I was asked to shoot the photo introspective,"Honoring the Wounds of War" to capture the beauty behind the scars of war. For many of the troops I know, their scars are a constant reminder of the most traumatic incident of their lives. Which is why I ached with hypocricy that after all I have experienced, that I actually shuddered at my surgeon's description of the scar my next surgery will leave behind. 
"The scar will run up and down your lower belly." My surgeon motioned with his finger from my belly button down to my bladder. In order to fix my spine, he will have to enter from the front. This will be my fourth procedure this year. But the incisions from my previous surgeries are relatively small for the work that was done. The scar on the front of my neck is just big enough to start a conversation at a cocktail party. The scar on my back is small enough to forget it's there. 
"See how the other discs are white? That's fluid. That's good. See your disc there? It's black. That's dead. That's bad." Then he pointed out how the disc thrust from my vertebral column into the spinal cord dislodging the little grey nerves that looked like naked trees in a winter storm. 
The situation in my spine is dire. Yet there I was. Worried about a scar on my stomach. That I don't show anyway! After four children, belly shirts and bikinis are not on my shopping list. So why was I so concerned about a scar? I even considered a less effective surgery just so the scar would be on my back! To me, people who embrace their scars are so beautiful. Why is it so much easier to see the beauty in other people's imperfections but not our own?
An epiphany came when my friend Jane, who was with me at my appointment said, "What's more important,your health, or a scar?". I began reflecting on my other scars. The one on my knee from when I was seven and fell off a bike in the driveway. It formed into the shape of a heart. It's faded now. The dumbest scar I have is on the tendon on the outside of my ankle from when I was twelve. I tried to shave my legs, with my father's razor. It gauged into the thinned skin scraping it off the tendon so the white showed through the blood. I bled forever. It seemed. Bleeding always seems to last forever when you're the one bleeding. My C-Section scar from my last-born was easier to embrace because to me something tangible came from it. A baby. A life. I felt I earned that scar. I didn't mind it so much, as it also runs low beneath my bikini line. The bikini that's not on my shopping list.
Maybe Scars are bookmarks saving a place in one's life to revisit when you look at them. My scars are things I can look at and know they are the result of healing. 
I've realized my old scars have become a part of me. If I were ever kidnapped they would be my distinguishing features. Female, five foot-seven and a half inches, heart-shaped scar on her left knee, three-inch scar on left ankle due to a shaving accident. 
This surgery may not result in a baby. But it will result in a life. A life releasing me from this level of pain. A freedom to walk and be out with my children. A freedom to be on top again, even with my husband. 
 
One thing I do know, it's time to reframe this sugery. How do I make this a bookmark? This scar should be a symbol that I lived through a challenge. It should be a reminder of how magnificent the human body is; That it can be opened and closed; That our medical advancements allow for this surgery in the first place. 
Perhaps the greatest hurdle is in accepting the marking of innocence. The soft bared skin of my tummy that's carried children, soaked in the warmth of the sun on hot summer days. The skin that my husband gazes on, then gently looks into my eyes. 
Or maybe scars are God's tattoos. Perhaps they are just His way of stamping certain folk so St. Peter puts them in the Fun-Pass lane. There is one last thought I will hold onto. I may not be my scars, but my scars do help define who I am, where I've been, and how I have lived. How I hit God's curveball. How I stretched out in the warm summer sun and asked for a little more color in the butterfly wings as His ink sinks into my skin. 

 

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