Letters and Scars

I keep every kind word anyone has ever written to me. I’m not kidding. I have a cedar hope chest full of kind words written over the last twenty years. The most recent one I received was from an anonymous sender, pictured above.

Jesus loves and sees you.

Those words meant the world to me. I think deep down we all have a desire to be seen for who we really are. To have someone wipe away the muck and grime we have on the window to our soul and then light up with delight and love for what they see inside. The enemy wants us to believe it’s impossible, and he’s really good at putting people in our lives who seem to prove him right. However, I’ve learned that if I listen hard enough and I look close enough, I can see God standing still among the mob, whispering the truth beneath the shouts of lies.

I love you. I see you. You are mine.

We choose what we’re going to believe. We choose if we’re going to live out that belief as though it’s true, rather than as something we wish were true.

If we say, “I believe that God loves me,” but we live as though we have to earn his love, we’re not living in the belief that his love is truly for us. We’re living as though it’s in what we do for him. The truth is, our very existence is proof of God’s love for us. His love for us cannot increase or decrease, it simply is. As one who has experienced the increase and decrease of love based on circumstances and personal performance, this is an entirely new concept for me to exist in. For years I thought I was living it out. I thought the deeply rooted doubts and fears, struggles and pain were just part of this life and heaven would give all the freedom promised in scripture. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Those of us who have been hurt tend to hold onto a trophy of pain and shame. The deeper the wounds, the bigger the trophy. My trophy is pretty big. And heavy. It downright sucks. It’s rotting from the inside out with bitterness, oozing a pus of discontentment, and it repels people with an undeniable stench of imminent death. Why would anyone ever want to hold onto such a thing? Truthfully, I didn’t think I was holding onto anything. The pain went so deep, and I’d covered it with so many good deeds and acts of service I’d smothered it, almost to the point of covering it up entirely. But God has a way of taking what we cover and bringing it into the light. While I thought both hands were open, serving God with an open heart, I was really telling him to be satisfied with my deeds and to leave my heart alone. God doesn't work that way. My decaying trophy was strapped in a backpack I didn’t realize I’d been carrying.

Have you ever tried to take off a backpack that’s really heavy and strapped on too tight? Without help it’s almost impossible. In the last six months God has surrounded me with women I love and respect who have shown me, not just told me, what it looks like to live without the backpack carrying all my junk, and in the freedom of Christ. While not perfect, they can see exactly where the straps of my backpack need to be cut loose and how to unsnap and untie what needs to go in order to get the nasty thing off. We’re all on a mission that involves crawling through some tight spaces of love and righteousness. If I’m going to be along for the ride the backpack has got to go, otherwise I’ll never make it.

The backpack holds not only my trophy of pain, but tapes of lies I’d been listening to on repeat. I’ve been feeling like these women have been tugging at the backpack, pulling out the contents and saying, “This has got to go,” “Enough of that,” “Yup, that’s gone,” “Why the heck are you still carrying this?” “That’s a big fat lie,” “Well this one is just dumb - gone!” As they toss the tapes into a pile of chaff. Regarding my trophy, they grab that thing with surgical gloves and set it on the floor staring at it with compassion and empathy that could only come from hearts that know the love of Christ, and they wrap me in a hug and say, “No more of that. You’re stuck with us, now!” And they say it with such joy, as though my very presence is a victory. When I find myself looking back, they remind me where I need to be: looking up and moving forward. Then they love me as I stumble through the learning process.

We all have backpacks of tapes of lies and trophies of pain we carry. Meanwhile, God is sending us messages in the midst of the pain to tell us the truth. Those stacks of cards and letters from the last twenty years gave me hope when I had none. I would tell myself, “there was a time when someone thought I was lovable. Maybe there will be someone else in the future too.” When I was at my darkest points those kind words were like messages from God saying, “Don’t quit yet. Your pain is real, and these words are true. I have a plan. Trust me.” Now as I unpack those tapes filled with lies and the enemies tactics, I have to cut them them in half with the sword of the Spirit while protected by the shield of faith. Secular counseling had its time and place in my life years ago and I don’t regret that time. It was what I needed when I needed it. Now it’s straight spiritual warfare, and I see the army God has put around me in the women who have decided to pray for me, love me and enjoy life with me. I can only imagine the army of angels he’s put around me that I can’t see to help, too.

What’s most encouraging in all of this is that while I have stacks of letters from dozens of people who have crossed my path, I have the ultimate love letter from God who wrote it centuries before I was even born with the single purpose of drawing me near to him. His love letter is perfect, powerful and personal. It heals. It doesn’t make the wounds go away, but His word leaves a scar to draw others in. Without scars how would anyone know it’s possible to be healed?

I get to move forward proudly wearing scars. See my scars. They’re proof that I know the Healer, and the Healer knows me. Show me your wounds and I’ll lead you to the one who heals.

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