“By his wounds we are healed.”
What would people think? Worse yet, what would they ask me? The shame and fear were palpable, grabbing a hold of my heart when the scars were uncovered—when my shame was revealed for all to see. Ten years. That’s how long it took to feel free. One whole decade.
Self-harm and cutting is a growing trend in North America, particularly among teens and young adults. It’s often that cutting arises as a coping mechanism for some form of deep emotional pain. We look for an external escape—something outside ourselves—to cure the debilitating pain within. Sometimes we feel we deserve to be harmed because of the dirt in our lives and the shame of our sin. So we cut, hoping to offset the pain; to be sovereign over our pain and thus find instant remedy.
But the pain keeps coming back, so we keep cutting.
The scars become a visible sign to us that something feels wrong inside. Our aching hearts are revealed, uncovered; we can’t hide the pain from ourselves anymore. But we can still hide it from the world.
Often people cut in areas on their body that they can easily hide with clothing. We wouldn’t want others to know about our pain and self-hatred. When I use to cut, it was on my arms—I (literally) wore my heart on my sleeves.
Yes, at first it was satisfying. My pain and depression was out in the open, finally dealt with. But as time went on, that satisfaction turned to fear of judgment and a reluctance to enter into community when the weather was too warm for long sleeves. Shame ruled the day. When the sunshine of summer began to brighten up the hearts of humanity, the cruel master of shame threatened to rob me of God’s vitalizing creation and fellowship.
I soon regretted my self-infliction. Why did I do that to myself? I wish I hadn’t. Now what? I had control over the way I dealt with my pain inside, but I couldn’t control the way others saw my wounds, now exposed so vulnerably to the world. But I couldn’t hide them anymore. I was tired of yielding to the cruel master.
I would decide to face the world, no matter what—with short sleeves. But it wasn’t me who made the decision. Jesus decided for me. “I have scars too, Josh.” This was the beginning of freedom. If anyone was to ask, I would face the questions with honesty and a new found courage. I would appeal to a God who I can relate with and who can relate with me in my pain. I was not alone anymore. I could face the world when that awkward question came: “What happened to your arms?”
The more I faced that question from people—many times now—the more my shame would melt away under the radiating glows of God’s healing grace.
Jesus is the master of my scars now. In fact, his wounds healed me from the shame of my own. These words from Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Meditations on the Cross can never ring more true:
“For me, the idea that it is really God who suffers has always been one of the most persuasive teachings of Christianity. I believe that God is closer to suffering than to happiness, and that finding God in this way brings peace and repose and a strong, courageous heart.”
On the cross, the suffering God has absorbed my pain.
For those who are still cutting or are thinking about doing it: cast your shame and hurt onto the suffering God. Let Him be your outlet—the place your wounds come to the surface. Let the God of the Cross, the God who is familiar with pain, enter into your shame and the dirt in your life. Let Him be your external escape to cure the debilitating pain within.
God has scars too you know. They are the scars of an all-embracing love. A love that bears our shame and brings us peace. Let Christ be the remedy—not self-harm—for in Him the sovereign God voluntarily entered into the world to absorb our pain. He now rules as one scarred. He has defeated the cruel master. We are free.