**WARNING – post-surgical pics below.**
I had some really amazing opportunities to share my story in the past week, one sharing at a local church, and another, sharing at our Philly district Nazarene teen camp. This one was Tuesday night and was just so on track with where my heart is. I love teens (nothing weird) but I just love their openness, their compassion, their energy, their overall awesomeness. My husband and I had been fortunate enough to be counselors last year, and I tell ya, as much as I missed my biological kids for that week, I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun in one week. It was so amazing to watch these kids grow and so much fun to get to know them throughout the week. It was really, really sad for us that because of my condition we couldn’t participate this year as couselors. But then I was asked to speak and we were so glad to get there, even if just for one evening. Of course, it wasn’t the same when we didn’t have our own cabins full of kids with all the fun and bonding and whatnot, but it was great to see them, share my story, and beat them at pipeline (aka nine square in the air). Haha.
Like I said, teen ministry is where my heart is and where it has been for years. At first, I didn’t want to do it, because honestly, I thought teens were scary and rude and would think I was an idiot. Little did I know that teenagers are the coolest most loving people on the planet and it’s been an absolute blast to work with them over the years. If you’re debating what ministry to get into, and you enjoy being loud and laughing at poop stories and whatnot, I highly recommend teen ministry 😉 But anyways, I digress…
One of the things I wanted to make sure to tell the teens was to not believe the lies that they are told about how they should see themselves. The devil is tricky and will stop at nothing to keep us from professing truth openly, and like I’ve said before, I believe self-consciousness and low self-esteem are brilliant ways to keep us from doing so. So I tried with all my might to tell them that they should love themselves, because they are truly awesome. And that they absolutely can’t believe the lies that they are fed about how they should act or look. And I meant it! I look at these kids (and not to brag, but our teens are by FAR the best ones in the world), and I see potential. I see them the way I believe God does, with love and pride and with wanting only the best for them. These beautiful people are crazy to think they’re ugly, or not worthy, or too skinny, or too fat, or useless, or whatever.
And then came “the picture” that pointed to all my hypocrisy. The picture that I had my husband take of me and the kids together with the intention of posting it on facebook. I smiled, he snapped, I took one look at it and thought, “Eww, I look horrific, no way anyone is seeing that!” And I went on to delete it. Ugh. A picture that my kids could have looked back at lovingly in a few years if I’ve passed on, and I got rid of it. Why? Because of my crooked smile from a damaged facial nerve during surgery, the scar on my thigh from where they took the muscle transplant was visible, the weight I gained from steroids was painfully obvious, and my transplant site in my face (yes, they put my thigh in my face!!) was puffy and awful looking. I realized as soon as I did this that it was wrong, but it wasn’t for a few days that I was able to put together why.
So here’s where I’m at. I was telling the teens to accept and love themselves all the while hating myself and how I look. Here’s a peek at some of the pics that my husband got from directly after my neck dissection to remove the cancerous lymph nodes and muscle transplant from my thigh to fill in my face this past November:
Ugh, this brings back so many memories. You can’t see from the pictures, but my scar starts in the middle of my neck (drains!! EWWW!) and goes up and behind my ear and all the way up and over. And these pictures do not even represent the worst of my swelling, the swelling and bruising got very, very bad for a few weeks.
I’m not trying to justify my self-consciousness here, just trying to show what I’ve been up against for about 9 months now. I’ve never been someone to think of myself as beautiful or anything, but when you have these physical defects suddenly thrust upon you, it can shake you a little. I have a really bad tendency to look at everyone else and see the best and then look at myself and be disgusted. I think we are all like that in some ways, right?? But, as always, God came through and provided the clarity that I needed.
Got to thinking about Thomas and his reaction to the news that Jesus had risen from the dead. He needed to see the proof and he needed to see the scars. Jesus’ precious scars that prove he is who he says he is and did what he said he did. Without those scars, we would not know the freedom in salvation or the depth of God’s love for us. Jesus’ precious and beautiful scars. I don’t think any of us would look at them and call them ugly and we certainly wouldn’t want Jesus to feel ashamed of them!
Thomas had to see the proof of suffering in order to believe that Jesus is who he said he is. God’s been showing me so much lately that people need to see our suffering and our messy lives. We need to stop misrepresenting Christianity as a cure-all for life’s problems. I’m deciding to surrender my scars, my puffy face, and my crooked smile because they are the proof that the “doubting Thomas’ ” need to see in order for them to see that my suffering is real, and so is Jesus. Stay with me.
After my surgery, I had a tendancy to wear my hair down over my face and learned different techinques for covering it while I talked to people. I learned to smile with a closed mouth so that you couldn’t see the crookedness of my smile from the damage to my facial nerve. But if it’s through my suffering that I want people to see Jesus, then they need to see it!
And then I read Galatians 6:17. Paul again. This guy, he gets me. He says, “For I bear on my body the scars that show I belong to Jesus.” Yes! I was not allowing God to use that part of me, instead I was hiding it and was ashamed. Especially when out with my husband, because, well, I’ll be blunt, he’s extremely attractive. Eric always makes me feel beautiful, always. But I would assume that others looking at us would be wondering why he would be with me. But now that all the pieces have been put together for me, I see that God wants me to use this part of me. And He wants me to be honest when I’m speaking to people, and not to be self-conscious. So, here I am, owning it. I hate pics of myself, or I guess “selfies” lol, but I feel like I need to do this::
It’s through my suffering that I want people to see Jesus, so it’s time to own it! Paul’s scars, of course, were the result of physical persecution for following Jesus. Mine I now see as symbolic of my new mission, my renewed passion, my purpose. Sometimes I miss looking “normal” but I know that these scars represent my crucifixion to the world, as Paul speaks of earlier in Galatians 6. Gone is the vanity and self-consciousness and in comes the confidence of what Christ can do through me. That is so exciting!
I just have this longing for people to feel and experience God in the ways I have been in the past few months. So I’ll continue to do what I can, where I can. Using this cancer and allowing God to work through this has been the most rewarding experience of my life, and to find my purpose? Inexplicable joy!!
You wanna know how I got these scars??