Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Fellowship of the Scarred

It bothers me every time I hear it, and sadly, I still hear it often.  It is usually murmured after news stories. Stories like these three women who escaped in Cleveland.

"She'll never be normal after that..."

Ok, public service announcement here:  Christians, we need to STOP saying that.

Have we no faith in a life transforming God?  Have we no confidence in the healing power of the Holy Spirit?  Have we no trust in One who says "Behold I make all things new"?  Do we not follow a Savior whose scarred hands settled the doubts of Thomas?

God is perfectly capable of healing wounds.  Yes, it takes work.  Yes, it is painful.  Yes, it takes time.  Yes, we may be different after that, bearing the marks of scars on our souls.

But there is a vast difference between wounds and scars.

Wounds require attention, care, bandaging, cleaning out.  Wounds require action.  Scars don't.

Scars are marks of something past.  Some scars are hardly noticeable.  Others are glaring.  But a scar marks something past, something healed.  There are different responses to scars.  The polite ones range from ignoring them, especially if you are not close to the person.  A closer friendship will allow the permission to ask kindly, "May I ask what happened to leave that scar?"  It doesn't allow permission to demand, but to ask.

A scar sometimes allows hurting people the chance to ask strangers, "Do you mind if I ask.... my sister just got hurt, and I see you have that scar... can I ask.....?" It is like a silent advertisement that you have gone through pain, which allows those suffering pain the freedom to ask when they need help.

But only a rude and crass person would walk up to a scarred person and laugh, point fingers, or demean the scarred in anyway.

With  the statistics in the US being now somewhere between one in every three or one in every four girls having been sexually abused in one way or another, we must stop responding to stories like the wonderful escape of the three captives in Cleveland with the murmured, "poor girls, they will never be normal after that..."  Chances are, someone in the room you are in has been abused also, and you will be hurting them.  Making them think that who they are is not ok.  Shaming them into silence so they can appear "normal".  Making them think they are not worth love anymore.

We may be scarred, but we can heal, and we can live, love, and laugh and be whole.  God can do that.  I know because He has done this with me.

But then there are those who not only whisper, but attack.  That is what I have lived in for ten years.  Dick has heard about my past.  No, he did not whisper the "oh, she will never be normal" about it.  No.  He went one further.  He said to many, "She is damaged from her past, and is not ok."  Then, adding insult to injury, he questioned my truth telling and suggested that I was "making up stories because if she had really been abused, she would have told her parents".

I have told my parents.  When I was an adult.  Like most abuse victims, I did not tell them when I was a five year old child.  A basic search of sexual abuse will inform anyone that not only do most abuse victims not tell, but even most adult rape victims will not report it.  We are ashamed.  Our shame is added to by people who respond like Dick.

But his view is not one I own.  I can throw it out too.  It is not even one the majority of the church holds anymore.  Thankfully, people are speaking up.  People are talking about their pasts, about their healing, about their stories.  I am thrilled to see this happening.  Because if we carry our healed scars and are able to talk about them, we make the subject mentionable.  We make it safe.  We label ourselves as approachable people.  And perhaps by so doing, we can save one other girls from years of silent pain. 

Yes, sexual abuse happens.  It is awful.  It hurts.  It causes deep wounds.  But, yes, God can heal those wounds.  God can mend our hearts.  We have not lost our value.  We can heal, smile, laugh, love, and even trust again.  We, the scarred ones, stand as living testimony to that truth.  I would not lose my scars if I could because my scars show others that you can heal from this.

But those same scars will cause some people, like Dick, to speak evil of me, to malign me.  He doesn't understand the difference between wounds and scares.  He is grossly misinformed, even telling me that he knows nothing of sexual abuse because it just doesn't happen in his community.  Hmm, yes... 

His words have hurt.  They have stung.  Scars are sensitive, and to hit them is painful.  His words have caused many tears late at night when I am alone.  But I know that my tears are precious to God.  He stores them in a bottle.  He sees the pain caused.

It is wrong.  God came to heal.  To seek the lost, to bind wounds, to proclaim liberty.  We are to follow His lead.  We are not to abuse the abused.  Sadly, Dick is not alone.  There are others, perhaps unknowingly, who do this with their comments.  But Dick is one of the worst I have seen.

If he wants to walk around and whisper about my past in an attempt to devalue who I am, let him.  I will shout it from the rooftops.  I am not ashamed of what evil men have done to me.  It is not my shame, it is theirs.  I will proclaim what God has done.  God has clothed me with dignity.  He has been Himself my glory, and He has healed my wounds.  I bear scars.  I will until I die, I suppose.  Jesus bears scars, too.  I am in good company now - the fellowship of the scarred.  I pray that my scars will bring hope to others with wounds.  Healing exists in the living God.

1 comment:

Shan in Japan said...

This is beautifully written. I love the phrase "fellowship of the scarred."