Shame takes on many forms, doesn't it?
That memory you just can't shake
The silent addiction
A vacant left ring finger
Debt piled high
For me, shame was written all over my body.
Ever since I can remember, I've ignored warnings about the sun. I grew up going to the beach every weekend that I could - to read, surf the waves, and soak up the warmth. I life guarded and taught swimming lessons outside for years on end. I tanned to get ready for prom, just like any other high school senior.
And for me it was more than getting a tan. I hated who I was without one. I could barely stand to look in the mirror. In the winter, I was one of those tan out of a cream bottle kinda people. You know, the rusty orange type. And then there were bronzers. I used them too and they were nasty. My face was a summer tan, my neck was a winter white, with a distinct line marking off the seasons. Yuck.
At 34, I'm paying for it all. Biopsies every 6 months, stage 2 melanoma, and umpteen moles lobbed off. I always go in for routine checkups and they find just one more problem spot. Next week I go in for another excision of a precancerous area on my arm. It's a "hotspot for Melanoma," as my dermatologist says. Lovely.
Anyway, I used to get all worked up over all this. Worried that I'm harboring cancer somewhere in my skin, worried that I wouldn't see my children grow up, worried for my parents' sake, worried that I wouldn't get to grow old with my best friend.
I can't lie and say these are never concerns anymore, but they certainly aren't keeping me awake at night. The more I know of God, the more I know that He is good, and the more I am learning to accept His goodness - in whatever form He chooses to reveal it.
It's not ironic to me that I was reading Psalm 73 when my dermatologist called last week. Verse 26 reads, "My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."
"My flesh may fail, " and that it has. "But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."
While I was processing the latest results, a fleeting thought almost found residence in my soul. "Your skin tells a story of your shame." The words were ugly and heartless and cruel. Immediately my eyes welled with tears. Sure there's shame in that I hated myself and I was desperate for the approval of others and I didn't know my worth in God. Sure there's shame in the addiction to outward appearance and the blind acceptance of our culture's obsession.
But that's not the story that's read here. No sooner did I hear words that cut and condemned, I heard another take on those scars. In a quiet voice, God said, "Your skin tells a story of your Savior."
My scars may have spoken of shame, but not anymore. Now they tell a story of redemption. Of God creating a new life within me that no longer seeks its own. Of God restoring beauty to a girl who couldn't stand to see her reflection. Of God healing wounds that were far deeper than what the eye could see.
Shame only serves to perpetrate and oppress and annihilate. But Jesus came that we may have life and live that life to the fullest expression.
My scars now tell a story of Jesus. And His is a story worth telling again and again.