Ugly Beautiful Scars

The wound did not heal well. Though it was small with only five stitches, it has healed into an angry red scar with jagged edges. By anyone’s assessment it isn’t pretty.

But to me this angry,red scar is beautiful. This ugly scar is a reminder to me every day that the biopsy was normal – it showed “no residual melanoma”.

Because I recently had the “M” word thrown at me – thrown in my face with a smile and a “you’ll probably be fine”. But is anyone fine when the word “malignant” enters their life? The “malignant” word was the first result of a biopsy of a mole. A  mole that seemed so small. So innocent. So benign.

Only it wasn’t. It was malignant.

And the second visit was to take more skin, find out if the melanoma had spread. It was this visit that produced the ugly scar. I saw the chunk of skin go into a small container, undoubtedly labeled with my name and the source of the tissue. Five stitches closed up the wound. The day the stitches came out was the day I heard the news that this mole had no residual malignancy. The bad tissue was gone, in it’s place an ugly scar.

So this ugly scar is beautiful. Like the scar on the woman’s face that makes her appear slightly deformed – beautiful because it is a survival scar from a fire that could have killed her. Instead every day her husband kisses that scar with all the love a human can possibly feel. Like the scar along the leg of the gentleman, for without it he would have been in the grave six years now. Rather, that angry, ugly scar is a beautiful war wound of survival. Like the ‘bikini’ scar low on a woman’s stomach, a scar that ensured a baby would be born healthy, not deprived of oxygen.

My scar is going to grow in size. They didn’t get enough tissue, and they want to do all they can to make sure the ‘M’ word is gone from my body. It will be long, and red, and initially painful, and beautiful ugly.

And as I lay waiting for a surgeon to look at my skin, to assess that ugly scar, to determine just how much longer and more ugly it needs to be, it comes to me, almost like a physical punch: I can enter eternity because of angry, red scars.

Ugly, brutal, Mount Auburn Cemetery angry, red scars on the hands and feet of the Saviour; the ugly become beautiful offering me a hope. an everyday wonder of grace, an eternity of God.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
    and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5


When the World is Upside Down

World upside down

The snow is dirty. So. Dirty.

And the woman beside me is eating a too-ripe banana, and the slush and puddles have replaced any sort of magic that big snow brings, and the offensive ordinary is overpowering on this Wednesday.

Sometimes you just know you were created for more than this. When the world seems upside down, and nothing seems right, and your words are misconstrued, and your heart is lonely – you know you were made for more.

And it doesn’t matter where you are in this world — whether it be shopping at Harrods in London, or sitting with the Dalit in Kolkata, or at a bazaar in Karachi, or a café in Paris, or a government issued cubicle in Boston — there are times when your soul screams loud “There’s got to be more than this!” 

And you look around afraid that the inner words were shouted aloud, but as you look around you realize – no one heard them. This is your inner struggle, your shout for salvation.

When the teenager gets pregnant and you’ve tried for ten years to have a baby; when the corrupt co-worker gets a promotion while you sit in the shadows; when the friend gets a raise added to an already high salary; when the one who abused continues abusing; when the poor get poorer and the rich get richer; when the mean get meaner and the meek, meeker.

When the world is upside down, that’s when your heart longs for eternity.

And on this day that is marked — when an indifferent world sees foreheads with the black smudge of a cross, that longing for eternity quite literally makes its way from heart to head. In this upside down world, a cross changed everything.

And through that cross we know we are created for so much more.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

Santa Lucia – Tradition Has a Price Tag

Imagine being woken up by your first-born daughter serving you coffee and sweet rolls in bed, dressed in white with a red sash around her waist, adorned with a wreath of lighted candles on her head?

Could you be so blessed?!

This is the tradition of Santa Lucia Day, celebrated yearly on December 13th. It is generally associated with Sweden and Norway, but celebrated in many other countries as well. We celebrated Santa Lucia and her life this past Sunday — the first time I have ever been a part of a Santa Lucia ceremony.

Stories differ depending on the source but most begin in Sicily where Lucia’s mother, a wealthy woman, had been miraculously cured of an illness after which Lucia persuaded her mother to give her wealth to the poor. Together the two of them would distribute food and supplies to poor Christians. This was during the time where Christians were suffering at the hands of the Roman Emperor Diocletian so their work was carried out at night in secrecy. In order to carry as much food and as many supplies as possible, Lucia wore a crown of candles on her head. Tradition also tells us that she suffered a terrible death at the hands of the Roman authorities, a death suffered because of her faith.

Modern day celebrations vary according to country, but within homes it is celebrated as I described above: the eldest daughter, dressed in white with a red sash, the wreath of candles on her head, bringing coffee and Santa Lucia rolls.

Like many traditions, the celebration was originally to remember, to commemorate an amazing woman who defied cultural expectations, staying true to a faith she believed with her whole being even as she was suffering a brutal death.

As the story fades through the years what is left is a girl with a white gown, red sash, wreath of candles, and sweet rolls. 

It is easy to want the part of the story that we can sweetly imagine — a girl in white, going through the streets helping the poor. But the brutal death is a critical part of the story, a part of the story that makes us shudder and shake our heads.

They go together – the girl in white with the red sash and the brutal death. Tradition has a price tag.

In the same way it’s easy to keep the part of the Christmas story that gives us the baby — babies are soft and sweet, they smell so good. Babies fit into the crook of our arms and we are amazed. Babies rarely make us shudder. But Jesus, the Man? The one with the cross? He requires too much. The man asks that we have his mind, are conformed to his death — Jesus the Man turns our world upside down and inside out.

They go together – the baby in the manger and the Man on the Cross. Tradition has a price tag.

On this Santa Lucia day I want to remember that tradition has a price tag.