Thursday, March 9, 2017
“Scars are not injuries. A scar is a healing. After injury, a scar is what makes you whole.” ― China Miéville
I got to counting my scars the other day, wondering what number this latest skin cancer removal was going to be. It was number nineteen—of those that show from a nine-inch one down to a half-inch. Most are between one and three inches in length. There may have been scars for my losing my tonsils and my wisdom teeth, but I can’t see those. I know that there are internal ones where organs have been removed, but I can’t see those either. Here’s the funny thing: for years I raced motorcycles in the desert, climbed rocks out in Joshua Tree, climbed mountains in the winter, swam the Amazon and hiked and camped in the jungle surrounding that great river. I have camped out in the Serengeti with lions, leopards, and elephants visiting our camp site. A big bull elephant once charged our car. Yet, not a single one of my scars has come from my wild life style. I haven’t broken a single bone, but I’ve been laid up in hospitals for months—and more hospitals than I can count in California, in Arkansas, in Massachusetts, in Texas, in Kenya, and in Tanzania.
My scars come from those places because every single scar came from a scalpel. From a ruptured gall bladder (18 days in the hospital and it was an HMO), from malignant cancer removals, from hernia repair, from benign tumor removal, and from four (count ‘em, four) implanted defibrillators (just one at a time, I’m on number four put in in Nairobi, January of 2016). I’ve got scars where even my wife can’t see them, and I sure can’t, but they’re there. I was a good looking young man with no scars whatsoever when I got married. I was trim and fit—well, you’ve probably seen our wedding picture. About two years after our marriage, I got my first scar and started gaining weight. It’s been downhill ever since. Some of those scars came with records set for needing more anesthesia than any other patient ever had in that hospital, and some of those scars (like the last one) came with surgery without any anesthesia in bush clinics and hospitals, more like you see on M.A.S.H. episodes, but I’ve developed a pretty high tolerance for pain. The thing is, the stuff I could control, like my motorcycle racing and mountain climbing never caused me any hurt or pain, but wow, I’ve had so many other things from my heart stopping, to tuberculosis of the skin, to malignant melanoma, to multiple skin cancers, to a ruptured and torn gall bladder, to cancer of the prostate, and to testicular torsion (where most men have two of something, I now only have one or I would have died).
A well meaning friend once said that God must have cursed me or abandoned me for so many bad things to have happened to me. Quite the contrary. If you read the poem by Edgar Guest in yesterday’s blog, you know that so much that looks horrible is really quite good. I wouldn’t be who or what I am without all those things happening, and I have survived every single thing that landed me in hospitals, thanks be to God. God didn’t send the things that messed up my body, but He did provide the hospitals, doctors, nurses, equipment, medication, and therapy that brought me back, time after time. How could I not have a positive outlook on life? When I tested God by risking my life climbing and racing, He protected me. When life intervened germ by germ and disease by disease, God provided all I needed to survive. It wasn’t always fun, but God never promised continuous fun. There are those verses that talk about the vines bearing good fruit needing pruning, and there’s no way to think of pruning as a fun thing, but it is a necessary thing, and it means I've been producing good fruit. What’s hard is getting back far enough to see the bigger picture and not being overwhelmed by whatever is happening at the moment. Yes, I’ve got lots of scars but I have had lots of healing, too. The legacy I will leave will not be determined by my body shape or its age or the absence or presence of scars and deformities. My legacy will be formed by every act of kindness and love I have performed in the name of my Lord. I am not advocating you going out and getting scars, but I am telling you that they are not ugly things. Those scars (mine and yours) are signs that God has brought healing and will continue to heal. And you can take that to the bank.