The Scars We Choose

Standing around at work, talking about Natasha’s tattoos:

“I’m never getting a tattoo,” Damian says. “I’m afraid of letting someone stick a needle in me.”

“I’m never getting a tattoo,” I agree. “I change my mind too often. I don’t want to permanently engrave something into my skin only to hate it in a few years.”

“Tattoos aren’t something you regret,” Natasha assures us, staring at the markings on her hands. “When you look at something that reminds you of where you’ve been—of everything that you’ve overcome—you can’t regret that.”

I think perhaps you can, but Natasha has the proper perspective. There is a reason people get tattoos, and if the only thing you like about it in ten years is the reminder that you are stronger now, braver now, wiser now, that’s not entirely a bad thing.

This does not mean I am getting a tattoo. (Calm yourself down, Mother. And John Parker. …Mostly John Parker.) But I think there is a beautiful poetry in the fact that my co-worker has her life story written on her skin in a language only she can read. What do those butterflies whisper? What tales do those stars tell?

The details I know of her past aren’t pretty. Not like her tattoos are.

Staring at her hands I decide this: Tattoos are the scars we choose for ourselves.

Me, I don’t have many scars. The ones I do have are petty, embarrassing things—evidence of the klutz I am.

A mark on my knee from falling in gravel.
A line on my arm from being too careless with an oven.
A scrape on my hip from fumbling and then awkwardly recovering a pen.

The only scar I have that could have been ugly is the one I incurred on my forehead while running in church at the tender, clumsy age of three. The gentle hands of a doctor ensured even that one would be nigh unnoticeable.

The scars on my soul are akin to the ones on my body. Minor things. Nigh unnoticeable. Nothing I would seal to my skin in ink.

“It’s like, you’re just so pure and holy,” my friend said to me the other night, after an extremely personal, highly invasive conversation (read: interrogation) about my past.

I cringed because I hate the pedestal those words place me on. Winced because I know the pieces of myself I didn’t share with him. Rolled my eyes because, while my moral compass may spin in a different direction than his, I am the furthest thing from pure and holy.

Sin is sin, no matter what form it takes. You can miss the mark by an inch or you can miss it by a mile. Either one will prove you are no Robin Hood.

I don’t see myself as better or purer or holier than anyone. Maybe I did once, but I don’t anymore.

I’ve realized that I am just a fragile, broken thing. A flawed vessel being remade by the hands of the Master Potter. A fractured soul, stitched back together by the gentle fingers of the Great Physician. I am a mosaic of sorts, all my once-scattered pieces cobbled together into something of a stained glass window.

But I am still learning to let the Light in.

And if tattoos are the scars we choose for ourselves, I want God’s Love engraved on my heart. His Joy embedded in my smile. His Peace etched across these shoulders of mine. His Redemption stamped into the palms of my hands.

Because there is a reason I don’t have scars. They’ve been washed in Blood. Stitched with Grace.

When I look at my life—at the masterpieces God has painted from the messes of my life—I realize Natasha was absolutely right.

I cannot regret the evidence of His Grace.

I can only be thankful that who I am is not who I have been, nor is it who I will remain. I’m always growing, always morphing, always changing. But His Love, His Mercy, His Redemption stays the same.

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