Thursday, May 17, 2012

These Scars Too Shall Fade




A so-called sexual revolution unfolded back in the '60s, making for a very unnerving time for parents of those coming of age . . . and a very unnerving  time for those coming-of-age as they witnessed the unwinding of their parents's sexual mores.  Fifty years later, the revolution looks quaint in comparison to the sexual submersion of the culture in which we live today, which is, we may as well admit, anything but cultured. The scars of the '60s are manifesting themselves into the struggles of this second decade.


The losses mount. 


The scars are deep.
I have a barely visible scar on my right wrist, the only remaining evidence that I was ever a fry-cook at the Sonic Drive-In, a grease burn from overzealous grill-scraping.  I have a scar on my right shin from a bicycle wreck in the sixth grade, evidence of believing a Stingray bicycle could fly.  I have a scar on my right shoulder, evidence of too many dislocations, resulting in the surgical placement of a pin, which has worked quite well. I have a surgical scar in my midsection too, evidence mainly of painful staple removal.  
Okay . . . so now you can help identify me if I am ever found dead somewhere without my wallet.
I have a scar on my heart too . . . and it matches closely a few I've left on other hearts here and there, evidence of scant resistance to past temptations, poor decisions, deception (of self and other selves), carelessness, selfishness, hopelessness. Days of blind wandering produced bumps and bruises that only slowly healed and may not ever disappear. 


The visibly-scarred go through a period of adjustment, a time when they believe that when anyone looks at them, they see the scar first and foremost, and,  for a while, it seems they forever will. Then, one day, it seems the scar, even still visible, is almost not there; the person behind it overwhelms it. So it should be, and can be, with those who are scarred spiritually and emotionally, even when it is the searing mark of sin. When people practice compassion, perfected with truth, the scars become transparent and the damaged soul shines through.
The past becomes the past . . . but some parts of it do not fade fast enough or move far enough into it, insisting on clinging to us like a creeping vine as we stumble forward out of struggle and into surrender.

How odd are the things of our past that cling to us like empty shirts pinned on a clothesline, blowing in the wind and flapping in the breeze, pulling at the pins, straining to fly loose and either take to the sky or fall to the ground, but bound instead, unable to choose, limited by their lifelessness.  They are but pieces of fabric pulled together by thread and shaped into a shirt, a covering. And that is as some of us are, lifeless, pinned to a stretched line of lingering sin we cannot forget or get beyond.

Do you ever wonder why some things from your past remain embedded in your memory and come up like an instant replay, over and over again, as if, with repeated viewing, there might somehow come some sense as to why they are so visually permanent?  It is like if we relive them again perhaps they will have a different ending or a better explanation, as though our vision will suddenly clear up and catch something we never saw before.  We don't recall everything, but surely there is a reason for every recall to which we cling, depositing it in our memory bank as if it were too valuable to relinquish.  For instance, I can recall my father's smile, yet I rarely saw one past my childhood.  I haven't pulled a crawdad from a creek in decades, yet when I close my eyes I can see the pinchers and watch myself carefully remove them from the bacon-bait on the end of the string, like an old black-and-white movie with a happy ending, little boy fingers pinch-free.

My father's smiles and creepy crustaceans are all wound up in how I came to be, and how I either flap in the gentle breeze or fall to the ground in a wrinkled heap.  It is all a part of the mystery of strength and weakness, of pleasure and pain, of defeating misery and soaring melody, of unending sadness and unequaled joy.  Of good and evil.  Of self-centered sin and unselfish selflessness.  It is the weight of who I am.  And those who know me . . . or of me . . . pick and choose and reconstitute at will, coming up with some images I recognize and some I don't.

Among those memories that I replay is an odd one from my middle school days.  Armed with a treasured hall pass, I made my way to the restroom, pushed open the door and stepped inside.  The lights went out, an arm went around my neck, placing me in a choke-hold and throwing me to the floor.  A bigger kid said something I did not understand, kicked me and walked out into the bright hallway leaving me lying on the floor.  I sat in stunned silence for a minute, stood, brushed myself off, wiped away a tear I would tell know one of, and made my way back to class and said nothing.

Why do I remember?  Well, for one, it was frightening.  Two, it made no sense.  Three, it diminished me to a little kid in the dark.  Four, it was never reconciled; I don't know why he did it.  Five, I know I was the victim of whatever weight he bore inside. It wasn't fair, but I couldn't fix it so I never forgot it.  It is history, but it doesn't fade with time.  It isn't watered down by the millions of memories since.

 I was never one to become really absorbed in history.  In school, I tended to memorize facts for tests and occasionally got enthralled by a historical shocker here and there, like the Salem witch trials . . . or a queen being be-headed . . . or the Holocaust . . . or the invention of penicillin.

I know . . . those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.  Boy, don't I know.

A few years back -- more back than I want to acknowledge -- I was set to co-write a speech with my boss for an executive in our company who was preparing to address a group of regulators about the great damage being inflicted on us by what we had determined were unreasonable laws.  As we walked back from the executive's office with our mandate to produce something memorable and hard-hitting, Dennis, my co-worker, got all excited and began to frame the speech.  He had decided we would frame it around the Peloponnesian War.  Snore.

I pictured our boss at the podium as the regulators dozed off and fell from their chairs into the aisles, dreaming as they went down of more laws they could pass just to punish the speechwriters.  Dennis clearly loved history and thought there was no limit to how it could be applied or what we could learn from it. I could clearly see I was going to become a Peloponnesian victim.  Fortunately for me, Dennis became distracted and the war was edited from the final draft.

No doubt you know that the Peloponnesian War, which Athens lost to the army led by Sparta, brought an end to the golden-era of Greece about 400 years before Christ.  Okay, if you do know that, you paid attention in class somewhere in the past when I was gazing out the window, probably absorbed in the rapidly-advancing war within myself, the one that would manifest into a history that also beings with "P," as in "personal."  The tests that come with that one can't be passed by memorizing a few facts and dates.  Nor can they be revised as time goes on.  Learned from?  Indeed.  Still, even with the learning, there is often a repetitive process in personal history that threatens to bury us under the weight of who we've been.
Regret:  an intelligent or emotional dislike for personal past acts and behaviors.
Remorse:  Moral anguish arising from repentance for past misdeeds; bitter regret.
Repair:  to restore to a sound or healthy state; to make good.
Remove:  to do away with; eliminate, as in remove a stain.

We can regret.  We can express remorse.  We can work within ourselves to repair.  We can struggle to remove all evidence of the stain of bad decisions and thoughtless deeds.  Yet . . . there they lay, waiting for an unforgiving finger to push the rewind button and replay them and remind us of what we perceive as our unworthiness.  Did too much to too many.  And, as if energized by the retelling, the past roars back into our minds and drags us into unrelenting real-life repetition.  The weight of who we were is constantly struggling against the weight of who we are in a tangled wrestling match designed to keep us down on the mat.

We are forgiven.  When we ask.  Which is an integral part of regret, remorse, repair and remove.

Why is it that the unwillingness of men to forgive and forget so crushes the immeasurable grace of God's willingness to forgive and restore?  And why is it that our own inability to forgive ourselves outweighs everything and slides in from all sides to suffocate us and pull us down in weakness when it is clear we are meant to soar in strength?

We're all broken.

And the truth is, even in our own brokenness, even when we want to take full responsibility; sometimes we're clearly disappointed with God.  Like David in Psalms, we want to know why He is so silent when we are so filled with groans.  We want to know why He feels so far away.  And, you know what? He's fine with us asking.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?  -- Psalms 22:1

And yet, in a later Psalm, David says:

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!  Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand.  When I awake, I am still with you. -- Psalms 139:17-19

Maybe we need to wake up and realize that He truly is always with us, incredibly faithful.  Even in those times when we are not very pleasing, he is always ready to welcome us back.  Whether we are being slammed to the hard floor by an assailant who comes sneaking up behind us in the dark . . . . whether we are waging our own inner war . . . whether we are just lapsing into the near-coma state of numbness that accompanies failed attempts at overcoming an unwanted sin, He is there.  Whether . . . whatever.  And the silence we sometimes think unbearable?  Were it not for a reason, He would be shouting.  We just need to trust.

And not only is He faithful . . . but He provides a way out.  When we are exhausted by the relentless pull of sin or when we are swallowed up by the waves of temptation that seize upon us or when we are drowning in the discouragement of our failed attempts, He sees and knows . . . and provides a way out.

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. -- 1 Corinthians 10:13.

Do you think there is even the slightest chance that the temptation that is feeding your depravity is a surprise to God?  Do you think that perhaps you have done something so bad and repetitive that He just shakes His head and says "This one is beyond me?  I created the universe, from the tiniest cell to the brightest star, but I'm at a loss."

No.

God is only limited when we limit Him to the scope of our own imagination or the depth of our own experience.  And even then . . . He waits and He anticipates our turning and He hears our groaning and He heals us.  And He lifts the weight of our selves and carries it away and replaces it with His yoke, which is light, so much lighter than what we put ourselves through in our fumbling attempts at self-restoration.

Again, why do we carry these sins on our own, repelling the power of forgiveness?  Well, for one, they're frightening.  Two, they make no sense.  Three, it diminishes us to being little kids in the dark.  Four, it seems not to be reconciled; we don't always know why we do it.  Five, we are embarrassed when we find ourselves to be victims of whatever weight we bear inside. And sometimes we think it just isn't fair, but we can't fix it so we never forgot it.

God can carry the weight.  He is never frightened.  He is never diminished.  He reconciles everything.  He knows why we do what we do.  He can fix all, in His own time and in His own way.  If we trust.

If.

Lay it down, leave it there.  Don't say it can't be done.  Seek the forgiveness of others.  Forgive yourself.  Seek righteousness.  And live.  And the angels will rejoice, regardless of what men say or do.

There is one other thing about those shirts waving in the drying breeze.  They're clean.  The stains are gone. The scars will also fade, as healing comes.



(Have you read "Who Told You You Were Naked?" Well, then, how can you answer the question? I hope you'll order a copy from Amazon.com.)








2 comments:

  1. The scars are definitely fading. There a a couple things though with me I find that are contained in one statement you made in that if "we relive them again perhaps they will have a different ending or a better explanation, as though our vision will suddenly clear up and catch something we never saw before." What you have said reminds me that they won't have a different ending but one scar I have had regarding my mother does have a better explanation, it took getting someone else's perspective (my brother's after she passed away) as he told me something that made me say, "that's why!" Some scars go away easily, others just need to be given to God, He is the healer. Thank you for posting your thoughtful words, I was blessed, thanks Thom.

    Stan

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    1. Great writing, interesting perspectives based on God's unquestionable Truth, that few want to acknowledge or trust if they can understand. For some reason, Jack Nicholson's memorable quote, "You can't handle the truth" has been ringing in my ears lately. After working in addiction recovery with Christians for 15 years trying to share GOD'S Truth as it applies to them, only to seemingly go in one ear and out the other,for most of them, leaves me wondering if that first drink or snort destroyed all brain cells. Seriously, it seems to me that very few Christians today understand the Truth, or simply "can't handle it", so they turn from it. I've written much more on my website,... http://addictioncrucifixionfellowship.com/Home_Page.php Keep up the good work, and may GOD you and your ministry, Don

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