Sunday, November 23, 2014

It's Okay To Have Scars

So recently, I was sitting in a 12 Step meeting and someone was sharing about the importance of vulnerability.  It kind of got the wheels in my head spinning and I have been mulling over the idea for quite a while.  What actually led to all this was a thought that popped into my head when pondering over the numerous scriptural references to the Savior appearing after his resurrection and showing his scars to those he interacted with.  Why did he do this?  Why was this repeatedly one of the first things he would do when meeting up with the people he encountered?  As I sat there soaking in the Spirit of the meeting I suddenly heard the Spirit whisper quietly to me; "Has it occurred to you that maybe part of the reason the Savior showed his scars was to let us know, all of us, that it's okay to have scars?  That even he, the greatest to ever walk the earth, has scars.  And he's not afraid of them, he's not ashamed of them and he certainly isn't defined by them?"

What a concept.  I was elated and confused all at the same time.  So I decided to do some research on the subject.

The obvious answer is the simple one.  He wanted them to really know who he was.  That he was the God of the Old Testament and the man who had been crucified as described in the Bible.  I couldn't help but wonder if there was more to it.  Not to mention that we have been told that upon resurrection that our bodies will be completely restored.  Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the 12 has taught;
What a comfort to know that all who have been disadvantaged in life from birth defects, from mortal injuries, from disease, or from the natural deterioration of old age will be resurrected in “proper and perfect frame.”

Additionally, teaching manuals published by the LDS Church describe it as an immortal and perfect body;

In the resurrection, the spirit and the body will be joined together again. Even though the body has decayed and become dust while it was in the grave, it will become an immortal and perfect body.  

So why wasn't the Savior restored to his "perfect and proper frame?  Why was it so important that his scars be visible for all to see?  Ponder that for a moment.

While researching this concept I became aware of an ancient Japanese method of pottery repair called kintsugi.  It was a method of repairing priceless pieces of broken pottery that were irreplaceable.  Kintsugi was a method where rather than try to piece the broken item back together and hide its flaws, the flaws were instead filled in with lacquer or resin and then dusted with real gold or silver to make the imperfection the focus of the entire piece.  They were literally illuminating the scars and flaws of these broken pieces of art.

Strangely enough, for a period of time these kintsugi pieces of pottery became so popular that people actually began shattering pieces of art intentionally so that they could be repaired and displayed with flaws and scars visible for the world to see.  What an amazing concept.  The items that were broken and put back together were more sought after than the flawless pieces.  It was like true vulnerability in art.

Another "wow" moment for me.  Could scars actually increase the value of something?  Could difficult life experiences, mistakes and wrongs that were committed but then slowly and meticulously repaired actually make me stronger and more beautiful?

Upon doing some more research I found my answer.  In a Book of Mormon Study guide for 3 Nephi 11 where the Savior's appearance is detailed; Elder Holland spells out the concept wonderfully and beautifully;
“Even though the power of the Resurrection could have—and undoubtedly one day will have—completely restored and made new the wounds from the crucifixion, nevertheless Christ chose to retain those wounds for a purpose, including for his appearance in the last days when he will show those marks and reveal that he was wounded ‘in the house of his friends’.
“The wounds in his hands, feet, and side are signs that in mortality painful things happen even to the pure and the perfect, signs that tribulation is not evidence that God does not love us. It is a significant and hopeful fact that it is the wounded Christ who comes to our rescue. He who bears the scars of sacrifice, the lesions of love, the emblems of humility and forgiveness is the Captain of our Soul. That evidence of pain in mortality is undoubtedly intended to give courage to others who are also hurt and wounded by life, perhaps even in the house of their friends” 
What a beautiful and amazing concept.  I especially love the line that says; "It is a significant and hopeful fact that it is the wounded Christ who comes to our rescue.  He who bears the scars of sacrifice, the lessons of love, the emblems of humility and forgiveness is the Captain of our Soul."

I feel as if he is saying; It's okay to have scars.  I have them, look at them, touch them, learn from them.  He isn't ashamed, he isn't embarrassed, he isn't less important, and he certainly isn't broken.  He is stronger, and gives hope to so many because he can honestly say; Look at me.  I have scars too, I understand.  

It's okay to have scars.  I don't have to hide them or allow them to define me.  I feel at times like the world has become a Scarlet Letter society of sorts.  Where people are valued, measured and tossed aside because of their biggest mistakes, their biggest flaws or the worst things that were done to them.  So many addicts and those who have had their lives affected by the addiction of another have come to identify themselves by their addiction or the addiction of their loved one.  Those realities, those scars have become the way that they see themselves, that others see them.  I encounter it every day.  That guy is a druggie, a pervert, a junkie.  That woman was abused, beaten, and broken.  That kid comes from a broken home, he's not normal, he's been through too much...

Why do we choose to define ourselves, and others, by the worst moments of their lives?  When I see the Savior again, when I see those scars on his hands, will my reaction be revulsion?  "Oh my gosh look at that guy.  What happened to him?"  Of course not.  So why do I see myself that way?  Why do I fear that others see me that way?  What do I at times see others that way?

We aren't defined by our past.   It's okay to have scars.  It's okay to be broken, because we all have access to the one that can put us back together again.  The one who will dust our scars with gold and make them beautiful instead of terrifying.  That will show us how to use our scars to bring hope to so many others if we can shake of the shackles and shame of carrying them.

President Utchdorf summed up my thoughts perfectly in his amazing message, The Merciful Obtain Mercy;
We must recognize that we are all imperfect—that we are beggars before God. Haven’t we all, at one time or another, meekly approached the mercy seat and pleaded for grace? Haven’t we wished with all the energy of our souls for mercy—to be forgiven for the mistakes we have made and the sins we have committed?

Everyone has scars, even the only perfect man who ever lived.   He wasn't afraid of who he was, of the things that had been done to him, of the marks he bore.  So why are we?  We shouldn't be.  Embrace your scars, embrace your humanity and be vulnerable.

It's okay to be broken and put back together.


  1. This is a profound concept. I love that Jesus doesn't just say, "look at the prints in my hands and feet"...but he also invites people to come and feel them. You're right--I don't think it's in a "look what they did to me" type of way at all, but a sign of solidarity with everyone who's ever lived. He may not have sinned like us, but he understands us. And that's a powerful lesson. Thank you for sharing!

  2. This was really powerful and beautiful. Thank you!

    I am the wife, mother and mother in law to sex/porn addicts and feel beyond broken. Most days my prayers have become "to please carry me today." (I know, enter the Serenity prayer here.... some days it's really hard to do.) It's become too much to have so many addicts in my life, and then all the enabling that goes on and the blame that gets thrown on me....No matter what I do or don't do anymore just isn't right, enough, appreciated or accepted. (Not necessarily for the addictions even, but just in general now.) My hope, my faith and my will is beyond broken. Reaching out is a scarey thing, I have been shamed. My own mother (now the support she never gave me hurts more than ever because I am trying to help (not control) this family and can't even comprehend her shaming me and abandoning me the way she has) my siblings, my in laws (his parents) and even a few bishops.... I have not received the support or love I so desperately longed for. Many more than just the addicts I need to find forgiveness for, too.

    I needed the reminder that The Savior suffered for all of this, for the addicts pain and mine. I have taken the "bricks" thrown at me and built walls to try to protect me, instead of building a foundation to stand on. Your words spoke to me and touched my weary heart and soul. Thank you! I have to learn to focus on The Atonement and Our Savior. (I know that's not what your post was about but was my reminder and I needed it.)

    As a wife, mother and grandmother I worry for and about my family. I feel responsible to them and for them, but my life has become unmanageable and I need to learn to turn over my will. It obviously doesn't work not to.

  3. I started reading these blogs a few months ago so until you posted recently I hadn't seen your blog.I just read a few of your other posts. I am the wife of an addict but ever since realizing my husband had an addiction and learning about the addiction/recovery groups, I have for some reason felt more of a connect with the addicts. I have many weaknesses and shortcomings and probably used to be addicted to "shopping," but I really have not struggled with addiction alot in my own life. I've struggled with being brave enough to turn my will over to God. Anyway I just wanted to say I've really enjoyed reading your blog and will come back from time to time and catch up on the older posts I didn't get to. Thank you for your courage and insight. You brightened my day.

  4. Thank you, Tim, for sharing this. I needed this.

  5. He mends broken things and He heals scars. :) Thank you for sharing this.

  6. I found a link to this post on Wow. So glad I did. I love the way you write. It reflects my own thought processes, and offers a powerful interpretation and reminder of this great principle of recovery: that although we are broken and make mistakes, we can be perfected and healed by coming to Christ - and we are beautiful and pleasing unto the Lord as healed and perfected beings. We do not need to be ashamed of our past so long as we have done the footwork and turned to Him for the healing grace of the Atonement. Thank you. I will be subscribing to your blog.