Montgomery Gentry sings a song entitled Tattoos & Scars. The key line says “tattoos and scars are different things. And yes, they are. Kind of. But one of the things that makes them similar is the story that they carry.
Have you ever seen someone with tattoos and asked them to tell you about them? It is usually an amazing experience to hear what prompted the tattoo or the story behind it. The same is true of scars, but often, we don’t see people’s scars because they are hidden or may not even be physical scars.
In November 2016, I got my first tattoo at the age of 42 after thinking and crafting and trying to decide if this was something that I was willing to live with for the rest of my life. It has a story, and deep meaning for me. It is a heart because everything that I do in my life I want to do in and with love. There is a cross at the center because I choose to put Christ at the center of all that I say and do. My children’s initials are there because they are a gift of love from God. There are 3 smaller hearts that signify Father, Son, Spirit; health of mind, body, and soul, and Mike, Anne, and Ty.
I also have scars. Physical ones that remind me of running down the rocky alley in flip-flops, and our childhood cat, Fluffy, that was NOT meant to be an inside snuggle cat (but don’t tell my sister Stephanie, she still won’t believe you). I have incision scars from fertility testing, gall bladder removal, and appendix removal, that remind me of not only those procedures but all of the circumstances that surrounded those times.
But then there are the scars that you can’t see, the ones that I carry with me from words harshly spoken, friendships broken or lost, and many other hurts that have come from different situations over the years. These are the ones that tend to be hidden away in the deepest recesses of ourselves and every now and then something happens to bring our attention to them. Maybe the memory is just that, a memory, because we have been able to heal from the experience. But sometimes the scars are nasty because they keep getting ripped open and never heal properly or completely.
When we look at others, there may be some who carry some of their stories on their body as tattoos, but most people carry their stories within themselves, in places that we can’t see. What we can see is someone who is sad, angry, aloof, removed, attempting to cover their hurt with a smile and a joke, pushing their kid to do more and be more, or a host of other actions and emotions.
What if, instead of judging them we offered them grace?
What if, instead of assuming we know what’s going on, we asked them to share their story?
What if we are the balm that helps them to heal from whatever gave them their scar?
It’s easy to see and feel our own scars. It’s harder for us to acknowledge that others have them as well. It is harder still to recognize that some of those scars we have inflicted upon others or we have reopened by ignoring the story and the person behind them.
When we love our neighbor as ourself, we give them the same kind of care we would give to ourself. I think that means that we listen to their stories and help to heal their wounds in such a way that the scar brings a reminder not of the hurt the caused it, but of the love that helped it to heal.
What do you think?
I would love to see/hear some of your tattoo and scar stories in the comments!