When I see my scars, I fight disgust – but, I do not truly hate them. Why is this so? They remind me. I remember. Everything. I will always remember. They represent pain. They represent life. At times that I had no other way of showing it – pain that had built up was etched into my flesh forever. I’m not proud. Do not be mistaken. My razor was the brush, my skin the canvas, and my blood the paint. But, it was not beautiful. Most of the artwork birthed from anger, guilt, numbness, or self-punishment. I felt so little and thought so much. It is both a blessing and a curse to be a thinker. That will forever be the case. Despite this, you see there was unexplainable relief in the opposite sensation: of feeling too much and not thinking at all. Powerful expressions of raw emotion plagued me into horrendous actions and taunted me with their permanence thereafter.
Each scraggly line of scar tissue was a moment when the reasons to live held on tight and came out victorious. When life was near obsolete and death was not just inviting, but deceitfully necessary. Yet, by the power of Christ, I saw the sun every morning that followed the darkest of nights. My scars are the markings of a fighter – permanent reminders for someone who battled what I assume was depression and mental anguish daily for years. I assure you – I love life and I look forward to the future. Understanding that, you can see how frustrating of a struggle it is when your brain defiantly disagrees with your heart. I still fight daily against those disagreements.
However, there is a silver lining born from all of the struggle and blood, and it’s simple: none of these scars were previously near fatal wounds. I am still here… ALIVE. That is all that truly matters at the end of the day – that darkness never won. Jesus had his hand on my life. The enemy screams negativities from the scars– but, Jesus, he whispers reassurances and encouragers. Satan shouts ugliness while the LORD’s still small voice declares beauty from the pain. The loss of blood by my own hands is a dark and reasonably stigmatized concept. Thankfully, the blood of Jesus doesn’t care what it is or was – there is nothing too much for Him. I’ve been washed white as snow by his death and resurrection – and those horrible nights…every single one, I was never alone. He was right there with me, holding me tight and crying with me on the bathroom floor.
How thankful I am for the scandalous grace and compassion of Christ that dives into trenches for people. For people like me. That unconditional, infinite, and unfathomable love that saves people, all kinds of broken and hurting people: the cutters, intellectuals, the mentally ill, atheists, politicians, the anti-theists, porn addicts, convicts, the divorced, alcoholics, hookers, drug addicts, the porn stars, white collar criminals, celebrities, child abusers, sex addicts, adulterers, sports icons, gays and lesbians, murderers, transgenders, rapists, and everyone else in between. This God I serve is greater than the worst of pasts. A God of grace and redemption. And that is what my scars will forever express: beauty from pain, restoration from brokenness, and victory from defeat.
Further, for those struggling with any addiction or sin, shame is such a wasted emotion – especially, in my case, when one’s wounds are physically and visibly healed. What benefit does shame provide now? What did it then? With God’s forgiveness, why allow shame to reside in your heart or mind? You shouldn’t allow it, encourage it, or instigate it. This takes us to the core of mental health stigma that I’d like us to consider – the pain experienced by those struggling with suicidal thoughts or any kind of brain illness is exacerbated tenfold by the silence and unwillingness of others to offer assistance in any capacity. Now, I understand these things are not always easy to identify – but, I am not referring to those instances of unidentifiable turmoil.
No. I am referring to that teenage girl you see with the downcast eyes and the drastically declining weight. The young man with the bruised knuckles and the bandages on his wrists and arms. The college kid always plastering sad quotes on his social media accounts. That single mom living paycheck to paycheck – that drowns herself in liquor once her children are asleep. It’s everyone and anyone who is visibly and obviously hurting that I am referring to.
C’mon church – isn’t it time we stop fearing messy ministry? Isn’t “messy” the very definition of what ministry is? Love is radical and calls us to do more. To be more. To shame less. To speak more. To listen close. To reach out and down – and all around. We are the hopeful and its time we start acting like it. A scandalous love has us meeting people where they are in the most vulnerable of states and loving them enough to not leave them there. We must get comfortable with the idea of being uncomfortable – otherwise, we serve little purpose to anyone except ourselves. Love before judgment – an undeniable selflessness. A few nights ago, a friend emphasized the following beautifully (my interpretation of what he said of course): it is not enough to be a theorizing scholar who understands doctrine and theology; no, we are called to be active and practical sons and daughters. Ministry is not neat or pretty or selfish. So then, let’s be like Jesus.
LASTLY, to the addicts, alcoholics, cutters, depressed, suicidal: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. God is here. Second, do not be afraid or ashamed to ask for help of any kind: for prayers, for company, for someone to take you to a counselor, for a cup of coffee and some good conversation with a trusted friend, for doctors, for an accountability partner, or even for a hug. Silence only makes matters worse. Getting help in any capacity may be hard – but, it is necessary. Breaking the stigma may seem impossible – but, it is not. Your voice is needed. My voice is needed. You are loved. Loved beyond our finite understanding. Trust me when I say I understand. Breaking the silence will open doors. Hope is real. God is real. There is still time for you – more songs to sing, tears to cry, more lyrics to botch, laughs to hear, road trips to take, meals to eat, prayers to pray, coffee to drink, sports to play, Netflix series to binge watch, books to read – life to live. Dark days will still exist – but, hold on to hope. There is always hope in help.
“Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:13-16