I have a scar on my forehead from when I was little. (Gracefully) Slamming my head into a chair resulted in six stitches and a little neon line against my tan skin. It used to stand out more, and I was so proud of it because I loved telling people the story of how it happened. Or how I thought it happened. I don’t know how reliable my memory actually is.
But one thing I do remember for sure, the thing that I loved telling people the most, was about the image of my dad rushing in in these awful teal-colored sweatpants (it was the 90’s) and a rare look of concern. He was the last thing I remembered from that day, and little did I know how important that would become to me.
In the same way that my scar reminds me of the pain and embarrassment of impaling myself on a chair, there are a lot of other things that remind me of my dad’s absence.
Like talking about him, for instance. I don’t really like to talk about him, and not because I don’t want to, but because the only things that I have to say about him are stories. I can’t talk about him the way other people can talk about their dads. It’s a weird space to navigate, even after all this time, and as it becomes more “normal,” it still feels weird. I don’t know if starting a sentence with, “He was…” will ever be comfortable.
It’s weird to me, too, that people say that I’m a lot like my mom, because we all struggle with acknowledging how much we would actually benefit from being like our moms (love you, mom). And also because I realize that they don’t realize how much I am like my dad because they didn’t know him. They don’t realize that I have his sense of humor, his thirst for adventure, his skinny ankles, his dimples (my “one beauty” as Amy March would say), and the bottom half of his face. And though I am proud of all of those things, there are times when looking in the mirror is difficult. My dimples, my smile, they stand out blindingly against everything else I am because they remind me of what isn’t there.
Varsity sports, Senior Year of high school, college, graduation—those were all things that have made me proud and excited and thankful, but never has a day gone by that I don’t notice the empty seat and the pictures with him that aren’t but I wish could be.
These things, they don’t always hurt, but like a scar they remind me of how I got those hurts in the first place. They remind me of what I lost and of what it felt like to lose my dad.
That’s the bad news. (I’ve always been a “bad news first” kind of girl, because now everything gets better!)
The good news is that scars are not simply reminders of pain, but, first and foremost evidence of healing. That scar on my forehead, it could have been a lot bigger and a lot grosser if the doctor hadn’t done such an excellent job. It also would have been a lot easier if I just didn’t have to have a scar in the first place. If I had just tied my shoelaces I never would have tripped on them and never would have hurt myself to begin with. But I did. And if it wasn’t a scar on my head it’s a scar somewhere else, because bad things happen and people get hurt. That’s just the way it is. But I can say with full confidence that I was healed. And no one can tell me that I wasn’t because clearly there is not still a gaping hole in my forehead. That would be silly.
Now, things would have hurt a whole heck of a lot less if I hadn’t lost my dad. It would be nice if I didn’t have to feel sad sometimes when people comment on my dimples or when something exciting happens in my life. But at the same time that I am reminded of his absence, I am reminded of all of the AMAZING things that God has taught me and provided for me throughout my life. I’m reminded of the people who rallied alongside my family right after his death, of the amazing strength and resilience of my mom. I’m reminded of the last night that we were given together, one last perfect night. And most importantly I’m reminded of the way that God refused, absolutely refused, to let go of me when I thought that I had lost everything. He grabbed me and held onto me and told me He loved me even as I felt lost beyond words.
The memories I have of that time are the biggest scars that I carry. When I look back, though I do feel sadness and grief and loss, I also feel an intense and unexplainable comfort.
I see it in the people around me. I see it in my mom. I see it in my baby niece. I see it in my ability to accomplish what I’ve accomplished. And I see it simply in my ability to smile.
I don’t know how else to explain it, except that God took something ugly and made it beautiful. He took something broken and made it whole again. Even before I lost my dad. God was already holding me tight when made me His daughter as a six year old, when I asked Him to save me, and to be my refuge in the times of trouble that I didn’t even know were coming yet.
Jesus has scars too. Holes in his hands and feet from nails driven through them, and a hole in his side from the jab of a spear; holes from a slow and painful death. And yet they are the evidence of the most AWESOME thing to ever happen EVER! They are the evidence of Jesus’ power over the grave, his power over death. I’m blown away, literally can’t even type anything else because nothing I say can accurately describe God’s overwhelming love for us.
So I’ll just leave this here for you. Because it’s important and everything I say should be taken with a grain of salt, but this, no salt necessary.
John 20: 24-27
“Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hands into his side, I will never believe.' Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.’”
“He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken; smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”