how the years’ scars can shape & not shatter hopes

So when I’ve sat across the table from my friend Vaneetha on many occasions, each time, not only do I not want the conversation not to end — I’m profoundly moved and deeply affected by this woman’s Jesus-saturated love. What she shares — is always unforgettable. She’s walked the hardest roads with the greatest grace — I could weep for the way this woman puts skin on Jesus’ love. I first met Vaneetha years ago through a mutual dear friend, Christa Wells, and we immediately connected. Christa wrote the song Held about the death of Vaneetha’s infant son Paul. Vaneetha has a story of suffering and scars, which are unquestionably what God used to shape her character and her faith. There are no words to convey the privilege it is to share my friend, Vaneetha with you today from the farm’s front porch…..

guest post by Vaneetha Rendall Risner

’ve long despised my scars.

I have spent much of my life hiding them, keeping my legs covered as much as possible.

My scars told me that I wasn’t like everyone else.

They told me I was unattractive, an oddity, a bit of a freak.

Some people are proud of their scars; they speak of courage. They show others what they’ve endured. They carry with them stories of bravery and adventure.

But for me, with scars covering both my legs, they were not medals to wear, proclaiming my bravery. They were rather deficiencies to hide, reminding me daily of my flaws.

Reminding me I was damaged.

As a teenager, I desperately wanted a perfect body, hoping that a perfect body would make me feel accepted.

But instead I saw in the mirror a body deformed by polio and further marked by the 21 ensuing operations.

In a world filled with images of flawlessly airbrushed models, it was a challenge to believe that my physical imperfections were beautiful.

So hiding my scars was natural. That way, no one could see how imperfect I was. That way, I could look more normal. That way, I wouldn’t be humiliated.

My scars were simply jagged reminders of my pain.

I hated going to the pool, or the beach, or anywhere that my legs could be seen. Even if no one openly stared, I imagined that everyone was repelled by my scars. I assumed that if they saw the real me, I wouldn’t be accepted. I was convinced that my scars made me ugly.

For a short while, a close high school friend convinced me to show my legs at the beach. She said my scars might be ugly to me, but to everyone else they represented strength and courage. To everyone else, they revealed what I had endured just to walk. To everyone else, they were just part of what I’d been through.

And for a while, I did show my bare legs, but I slowly reverted back to covering them up. It was easier that way.

I went back to believing the lies I had told myself: I was more valuable if no one could see my scars.

I hid my wound marks and was comfortable doing so for decades. But one day, I noticed this in the Gospel of John: “Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord” (John 20:19b-20).

The disciples recognized Jesus when they saw His scars.

And Thomas needed to feel the Lord’s nail wounds to verify that the risen Savior was before him. Jesus didn’t need to have scars on his resurrected body. His body could have been perfect, unblemished, unscarred. But he chose to keep his scars so his disciples could validate his identity. And even more importantly, so they could be assured that he had conquered death.

Michael Card’s song, “Known by the Scars,” expresses this truth so beautifully.

The marks of death that God chose never to erase
The wounds of loves eternal war
When the kingdom comes with its perfected sons
He will be known by the scars

God chose not to erase these marks of death – the wounds of His love for us – so our Savior will always be known by His scars.

Rather than physical imperfections, Jesus’ scars are breathtakingly beautiful. They represent His love and our salvation.

As I considered these truths, something stirred in me.

My scars are significant and precious. I shouldn’t keep hiding them. I am recognizable by them; they make me unique.

They are an integral part of who I am. They show that through Christ I am a conqueror. That I have suffered and by the power of the Holy Spirit have overcome.

My scars remind me that God is sufficient. And that physical perfection is not our goal. A life lived to God’s glory is infinitely more valuable.

Scars represent more than I ever realized.  They can be beautiful.  The dictionary says “a scar is a mark left by a healed wound.” A healed wound. My scars signify healing. And even though my initial flesh wounds have healed, there is yet a deeper healing in acceptance.  

I started to notice scars more as I looked around.

There was something captivating about people who were unafraid to be themselves: authentic, unmasked, and unashamed of the wounds that shaped them. Their vulnerability was magnetic. I was drawn to them. To learn from their self- acceptance. To hear their stories. To see their courage.

I learned it is often a good thing to ask people about their scars. As long as I do it respectfully. And lovingly.

Asking demystifies scars. And allows people to share what has shaped them. Because all scars have a story.

I saw that when we display our scars, we inspire others to do the same. 

Those of us with scars should wear them like jewels, treasured reminders of what we’ve endured. 

It’s okay to show our imperfections. It is even courageous.

And perhaps we’ll discover the beauty in our scars. 

 

The Scars that Have Shaped Me

Vaneetha Rendall Risner is a follower of Jesus who is passionate about helping believers find joy in the midst of struggle. Vaneetha speaks and writes on suffering, blogs at www.danceintherain.com and is a regular contributor to Desiring God. 

Vaneetha’s first book, The Scars That Have Shaped Me: How God Meets Us in Suffering, from which this article was excerpted, tells the story of God’s care and faithfulness in the midst of devastating loss and pain. In it, Vaneetha tells her story which includes multiple surgeries as child, bullying from schoolmates, miscarriages as a young wife, the death of a child, a debilitating disease and unwanted divorce.

While Vaneetha begged God for deliverance from each of those things, God gave her something better: His sustaining grace. And that grace drew her to God in magnificent and unexpected ways. The Scars That Have Shaped Me is an unforgettable read for anyone who is suffering or simply longing to find encouragement and rest in Jesus.

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