then there was a handful of light: about scars & shame & being brave

I get to lie right next to her every night.

Sometimes we have to pull close, to loan each other courage to reach through the dark and find what we need.

Rubbing her back in these small, slow circles feels like polishing down the day to the essence of  grace.

She reaches up her little hand — “Mama? Back? Back?” And she rests her hand on my back.

Her tiny palm slides back and forth across the small of my back — like grace given always comes back to find you, hold you.

She feels like hushed holiness in the dark and I don’t move.

She had came terrified and heartbroken to us, 10,000 km across the top of the world, and her eyes were so wide, like if she looked hard enough, enlarged herself enough, she would find her safe.

For months, I’ve rocked and held and stayed closest and her and I, we’ve bonded into a kind of courage. And now she rubs my back in the dark and I rub hers and I memorize this. Safe places are your very own miracles that hand you comfort in one hand and courage in the other.

Her hand rests on me and mine on hers.

“Mama? Mama?” She pats my arm. And when I look up, she takes her hand, and pulls up her shirt, and runs her fingers up and down the raised purpling scar that splits her chest.


She says the word in the dark. She says it over and over again.

She’s tracing her scar.

“Brave. Brave.”

I’ve always called the evidence of her open heart surgery, her brave scar… but she’s just calling it? Her brave.

Yes, Broken Hearted —- your scar is proof of your brave.

And you don’t have to be ashamed of it, you don’t have to hide it, you don’t have to pretend it doesn’t exist. You can pull back your shirt any time and show me, a hundred times a day, you can take my hand and ask me to trace your brave. Because I have found this in all the dark:  We are all called to be witnesses. Trust me, life testifies that this is what it’s all about: We are all called to be witnesses.

I touch her scar and whisper it with her, witness it with her: Brave, Brave.

Never be ashamed, Broken Hearted, never be ashamed.

Shame dies when stories are told in safe places.

Shame poisons hope — poisons hope that things can change.  That we can ever be changed, ever be accepted, ever be good enough.

You can trace those scars and let it feed your courage and feel no shame for the wars you’ve come through, no shame for any of your broken because:

Shame eats souls.

I believe it, and touching her scars, there’s C.S. Lewis:

Don’t you think the things people are most ashamed of are things they can’t help?”― C.S. Lewis

Sometimes — and there really are times — that you can’t help where you’re broken, you can’t help how the story turned out, you can’t help how things fell apart and you got banged and busted up. And shame about the things you can’t help — helps you the least. 

I can trace the truth of it:

Shame of scars can scar worse than the original scars.

Shame of being broken can break us worse than being broken.

And I wish it hadn’t taken me so long to know, but I’ve felt it in the marrow of my bones:

We can live with the pain of brokenness… what can slay us is the shame of brokenness.

Maybe on the days we want out of our lives — it isn’t so much that we want to die from shame, but hide from shame.

She pats her scar like it’s a kind of medal, a kind of memory.

Shame gets unspeakable power only if it’s unspeakable.

“Brave,” she says it again.

And I nod, kiss her forehead. “Yeah — crazy brave, girl.” I want to write it right into her scars:

You know what?

Your scars are proof that you’re a kind of bulletproof.

Proof that that He’ll carry you through anything, get you through everything, so you can be stopped by nothing.  Scars are proof that you can now weather any storm because Jesus didn’t just calm one storm but all storms and these scars are proof that you’re a kind of bulletproof because living through the hardest battles proves you can live through any battle. 

Your scars — the worst nightmares that you survive — prove you’re a kind of kevlar. 

“Hug? Hug?” She whispers. Then flings both arms of hers around my neck, her chest scar pressing up against me — her brave touching me. We loan each other the courage of stars, the bravery to be.

I pull her in closer, and brave can feel like a thousand things. Scars may come, but shame never has to. 

I can feel it, right next to me, her brave breaking into a flame igniting the night.


Related: our story of breaking free