Prologue: I wrote the text of this blog a while back, almost 3 years ago, in fact. Yes, sometimes I recycle stuff I wrote before, and I updated this material to publish a couple of weeks back.
In one of those bizarre turns of events that can only make me think that our world is far more synchronized than we ever imagined, my friend Chance Scoggins published his blog on this same topic the morning that I had scheduled this one to be published. This was not intentional. I deleted the blog for the day and decided to re-publish it later with this disclaimer for our mutual friends and readers. Our subject is eerily alike, but each of us has our own perspective. He asks wonderful questions. If you haven’t read his work, I invite you to do so at www.chancescoggins.com.
Meanwhile, this sat in my drafts, waiting for the appropriate time to be published. My nearest and dearest will verify that God made himself very clear in his timing. This weekend, God gathered up some pieces of my life that have been broken and mangled for two decades, but when he opened his hands to show them to me, all I saw was my own heart. It wasn’t torn apart and decayed. It was intact, because he has been holding it all along.
The God of the universe, whose kingdom is eternal, came to me, whose life is tiny and short. Why? To give me my heart back. To feed me lunch. That’s how much he loves me.
Gather the broken pieces so that nothing is wasted.
A while back I re-read the story of the loaves and fishes. Jesus was teaching people who had nothing and who were hungry. He took a serving of food so small that it was laughable, gave thanks for it, and distributed it among the crowd. I’ve read this story a gazillion times since I was a child; it’s so familiar that it’s in all 4 gospels. But this time one phrase in John’s version (ESV) caught me: “When the people had eaten their fill, he said to his disciples, ‘Gather the broken pieces so nothing is wasted.'” They took up an amount so large that it was as laughable as the pitifully small amount he started with.
As often as I had read or heard that story, I never noticed that phrase: “Gather the broken pieces so that nothing is wasted.” It struck me pretty hard.
In the past few years I’ve been blessed with several wonderful and unexpected small opportunities: Giving advice (believe it or not,) doing favors, and rekindling relationships with old friends. But in the midst of it I’ve also been forced to take a stand on some issues that are uncomfortable to me. I’ve had to let go of my control over situations that I thought I was handling just fine. I’ve made a couple of strange mistakes in judgment. I’ve had to think about things I haven’t thought about in a while, and sometimes that brings up painful memories. Like most people, I’ve lived through seasons when I have been broken, hopeless, and hungry, and I’ve known seasons when I have been fed and healed.
My parents have a high threshold for pain. To some degree I inherited that. (Case in point: I once had a horrific black eye and no recollection of how it happened.) But I joke that although I have a high threshold for pain, I have a low tolerance. Once I am aware of the pain, I am an awful baby about it.
Similarly, I have the gift and the curse of feeling things very deeply. It’s hard for me to accept things that hurt me, such as a broken friendship. I don’t understand why those things have to happen or how people I trust can deceive me and betray me. I know that sometimes it’s for the best. But sometimes the wound is extensive. It won’t heal. The bitterness and brokenness sets in, and no amount of willpower or positive thinking makes it go away. I don’t have the capacity to treat myself and heal myself because I’m too busy hurting from it.
Anyone who has ever been injured knows that healing is often uncomfortable in its own way. Even if there is no painful rehabilitation (as there often is) the waiting can be excruciating. In my own life, I’ve often wondered if time truly does heal all wounds. I don’t think it does. When I was a child, I got my foot in a lawnmower. It was nobody’s fault; it was an accident. Once I got home and the anesthesia from the three layers of stitches wore off, the pain was incredible—for the first few days I was nauseated and dizzy whenever I tried to even sit up. It got infected, and my surgeon sat in the office and cried with me when he had to hurt me to clean it out again. I couldn’t put weight on it for 6 full weeks. It took 10 years for the nerves to regenerate, and the scar will go with me to my grave. It made me prone to spraining my left ankle and changed the way I walk. It is a tangible reminder to me that some wounds are forever. I’ve adapted to it and I function completely normally now, but the scar is part of my foot and the injury is part of my history. I can either accept it as an interesting story or spend my life trying to make it look and function just like my other foot.
I’ve been forced to look back at the places where life hurt me and didn’t make sense and see that those experiences are being redeemed, one by one. Little pieces of my life are being revealed to me—little pieces by the basket load—and I’m able to look at them and see the people at the center of my hurts with different eyes. I can see them with some sense of grace, and I can forgive them. Perhaps more importantly, I’m able to receive that same grace and forgive myself for being hurt. I’m starting to see that those scars are a part of who I am—a complete, happy, loved woman—and not a catalog of my failures. I’m learning to use them to teach my students, love my friends, and even laugh at the way life works out. The painful mistakes I’ve made are as much a part of who I am as my successes, and I’m able to give more from what I’ve done wrong than what I’ve done right. There are people in my life who found me when I needed them, and they mean much more to me than the ones that I lost to broken relationships. They loved me when I was a mess, and they celebrated with me as I found my way again. I can honestly say that my life is actually richer and fuller because of the changes these “injuries” forced on me. When the broken pieces were collected, nothing was wasted.
So I’m learning to love my scars. The injuries are part of the journey, and I’m less afraid of getting hurt or going hungry than I was this time last year. There will be trouble; we know that. In the end I’m confident that we can share what little we have and still eat until we are full. Life abundant, more than we can ask or imagine…