It has been said: "Scars remind us where we've been. They don't have to dictate where we are going."
On the inside of each of my ankles, there are scars. There is also a very long one that reaches all the way down my abdomen. Now, if I had not been told this story many times during my childhood, I would be curious as to where I had received these scars.
The story began in Bucks County Hospital, Pennsylvania, when I was born. Dad was in the army and Mom was home with two babies only 11 months apart. The first was a boy and then there was me. Seemingly normal babies, her task to care for us was difficult, to say the least for a young woman of 22 in a strange place away from family. She recounts rocking my cradle with her foot and rocking my brother in her arms, and crying. You new moms can relate.
However, I began projectile vomiting, and we are talking across the room. (Gee, I hope you aren't eating as you read this; if so, sorry.) All babies spit up, my young parents reasoned, but when my weight began dropping, the doctors were consulted. Tests were ran. I began dying from malnutrition. More tests were ran. They almost missed the diagnosis as it is rare in girls: pyloric stenosis.
Pyloric stenosis is a narrowing of the pylorus, the lower part of the stomach through which food and other stomach contents pass to enter the small intestine. When an infant has pyloric stenosis, the muscles in the pylorus have become enlarged to the point where food is prevented from emptying out of the stomach. To make a long story short, I almost died during the first months of my life, but was saved by some diligent doctors determined to do just that. They operated, and voila: I am here.
Now, these scars tell a story. However, they don't dictate where I am going. Now indulge me some drama (and you do that often and I thank you). What if I had the mind set: "Oh, I had pyloric stenosis and almost died as a baby. Now, I am scarred. I can never do anything. For Heaven's sake, I can never wear a bikini!" I knew that would make you laugh. The slim scar actually grew (it was only about an inch or less at the time as a newborn) but it grows as I grow. Hopefully, that growing part is over, but during pregnancy, "Katy bar the door" and man, did it ever grow!
Mom recounts the time back then and tells me I would lay there and smile and smile at the doctors. They loved me, or so she says. The trust of a newborn is a wonderful thing. My life was in their hands, and I had no clue what they were doing, but only that they were taking care of me.
My friend, we all have things, stuff, baggage, luggage or whatever else you and psychologists want to call it. We've had things that cut us to the very heart, and the pain has literally scarred us, just as the surgeon's knife scarred my abdomen and the IVs scarred my ankles: my only source of nutrition. Let me tell you this. Your scars cannot only tell your story, and we all have one. But just as my ankle scars fed my body out of starvation, your scars can be a source of feeding others. The very thing that you think is going to kill you is the very thing God wants to use in your life to bring total dependence upon him and deliver you from your pain.
Dear one, you can look at him and smile as I did as an infant to my surgeons, and know, what you think is going to kill you, is saving your life. What you think is "scarring your ankles," so to speak is feeding your soul. And, the positively most amazing part, I believe, is that the affliction that you believe will kill you (just as pyloric stenosis cut off my food supply) is actually the furtherance of your way, and will become food for others along the way.
You may be sitting there reading this and things are coming to your mind (abuse, cruelty, secrets, pain, anguish, suffering, physical pain or whatever difficulty you are encountering) will become food along the way for someone else someday and my experience is that will be sooner rather than later. There is no such thing as a problem without a divine gift hidden within it. You have these problems because you need these gifts, and may I go so far as to say, other people need the "food" from these difficulties.
Someday, you will be sitting across a table from someone or you will run into them at church, the store, work or a chance happening (you know I don't believe in that) and they will have a similar problem, and you will be able to empathize with them as others cannot, because you have the scars. You will help, encourage, pray and actually help deliver someone else. You've walked that path, and your scars will become the very deliverance for you as well as for others.
If you can, as I did as a newborn (yeah, it was easier then) look up at your Surgeon, aka the Great Physician, and smile, knowing your life is in his hands, and knowing he sees your tears in the darkness. He hears the prayers you pray in the midnight hour, and know he is working a much better "operation" on you than you can imagine. Just as my physical ailment was keeping me from digesting food, something ugly in your life is keeping you from the real nutrition you need in your life. He wants to feed you and allow the life that is rising up in you to feed a multitude, just as the story of the little boy in the Bible with a bit of bread and a couple of fish fed a multitude, literally thousands.
You know how transparent I am with you, to an uncomfortable point for me at times, but if I share, and you are helped, it's worth it. When I am humiliated, humbled, afflicted, ridiculed, kicked while I'm down or whatever the plight (oh, yeah, I'm dramatic), I bow my head and I say, "I humble myself under your hand. Do what you need to do to heal me and to feed others through this." Something happens, I gain insight, someone speaks a word I need, I find a verse of Scripture with brand new meaning, or someone comes up alongside me with scars of their own, and cheer me on because they made it, I can too.
You may believe your plight is different, rare, shameful, or even one of a kind, but I am here to tell you, God specializes in rare cases (as my pyloric stenosis required specialists in the early 60s. Yeah, you already knew my age anyway.) If you will but look to him and smile, as a I did as a newborn trusting her surgeon, then he will open you, heal you, and though you may have scars, and we all do, they will tell the story of where you've been, but they will never dictate where you are going.
Scars remind us where we've been. They don't have to dictate where we're going.
(Kimberly Short-Wolfe, MA is the counselor at Cornerstone Christian Counseling in Elkins. Contact information: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or call 304-637-7018.)