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She said she’s going to get a tattoo that says “Beauty from pain” on her forearm where she has a few scars.  The scars remind her of a not so great choice she made last year and each time she looks at them, she told me, she thinks about what she did.  The scars were like tightly bound, rough ropes that kept her tethered to shame.  She would see them and berate herself all over again for cutting her arm in a moment of deep hurt and loneliness.  I think it did break one of those binding ropes when she told me about it, which she had put off doing for a while.  God was healing her one step at a time.

As she talked about it with me and how she wanted to replace those scars with a positive message, I told her that the scars are not all bad.  They will fade in time, but instead of bringing up shame or disgust with herself for something she feels was a mistake, they could remind her of all God has done for her and is doing right now to help her grow, heal her heart, and use her to encourage other people.  She has good scars.

I remembered back to 2003 when I was recovering from a mastectomy and looked at myself in the mirror for the first time without bandages.  Across one side of my chest was just a big flat space marred by a long reddish scar.  It was not the way I wanted to look, of course, but if I didn’t have that scar I might have lost my life.  It was a necessary part of my journey, an experience God has used in monumental ways to teach me, grow my faith, and allow me to relate to and encourage other people.  I have a good scar.

Bethany Hamilton, surfer who lost her arm in a shark attack, talked with reporters a year or so later who asked her if she regretted surfing that day since she lost an arm.  She told them that she realized she was now able to reach out and embrace more people with one arm (because she could relate to those hurting in similar ways and testify to how God helped her) than she ever could with two.  I’m sure whenever she sees her scars it still brings back memories and sometimes sadness, but overall they represent the catalytic event propelling her into an amazing, far-reaching ministry that would have never happened otherwise.  Good scars.

The best scars I can think of are the ones on Jesus’ hands.  What he had to endure to get those scars was awful, excruciatingly painful, and difficult.  The reason he had to is sad, that we were disobedient kids who had a broken relationship with God.  But the result is the best there is:  we can come back to God without fear and receive love, forgiveness and grace.  I imagine that if Jesus looks at his scars he doesn’t think about how hard it was to endure crucifixion, he is glad that the event that gave him those scars brought his children home.  Very good, holy, life-giving scars.

Someday when we walk with him in heaven maybe we will get to hold one of those hands.  Maybe we will get to see the scars ourselves, touch them with our own fingers, and thank Him over and over and over, as if it would ever be enough.

Don’t let a mistake, a bad choice, an accident, a surgery, or other bump in the path become a stumbling block or a chain that holds you back.  God can turn all of those things into good, making them reminders of his love for you instead.