Often, when reviewing my scars, I wonder why I have them at all. If cells replicate every seven years or so, where do scars come from? Shouldn’t they disappear with the next round of shedding?
Maybe it’s good they don’t. Good to see that patch of skin burned white by molten zinc – remember to tuck the gloves in next time. Good to see that track from finger to wrist, palm laid open to grasp hold of severed tendon and sundered nerve. Repairs made, scars created, tucked in, stitched up, restored to life. Remember: long, soft, welcoming grass can embrace a broken beer bottle as well as a falling biker.
I have other scars. Memories embedded so deep they’ll never be overwritten, lost, or left behind. Modulated, perhaps; emphasis shifted, for sure; pounded out by ceaseless worrying at mounds of hardened resolve, yes. But still there, to re-member the circumstance that built them.
My deepest scars trigger visceral responses. A counselor once told me my primitive brain put me into flight or fight or freeze before conscious thought engaged unconscious perceptions. Once, I found myself standing between a victim and an abuser, using every bit of power and authority I thought I had before considering the consequences to any of us.
Years of praying and training and thinking and pounding away at scars embedded in my teenage self by bigger, stronger, raging people, flew away in a moment. Understanding that all of God’s children, whatever our age, are scarred and scared and fighting or flighting left in a nanosecond. The deep knowledge of love alive and aware and present among us was shut down and denied in a heartbeat.
In a visceral moment, I was back in the place of refusal, of denial, of insistence that nothing like that would happen to anyone if I could intervene.
I consider my response to more recent stories of victimization, of abuse, of uncaring, thoughtless, brutality and I can feel my scars hardening in protest. Not willing to wonder about entertainment choices that celebrate uncaring, thoughtless brutality. Blind to the power nations exercise against nations or leaders impose on people, or the state levels against the mentally ill. Forgetting the constant brutality of the economic system we treat like a faith system, while failing to recognize the structures built into faith communities that set opposition as a stronger standard than love.
In a fear sharpened, scar hardened, moment of response, I’d rather focus some brutality on the one acting brutally, than wrap them warmly up in enough love to soothe their shuddering hearts and bring peace to their wounded souls.
Perhaps my scars need a bit more work? What if I allowed the Creating One that is All to wrap me warmly in enough love to soothe my shuddering heart and bring a measure of peace to my wounded soul? Could I then open a door of welcome instead of slamming a door of hate?
Keith Simmonds is a diaconal minister in the Communities in Faith Pastoral Charge serving Beaver Valley, Rossland, Salmo and Trail.