Or so says today’s American culture. In fact, according to a recent study conducted by the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) this past April, over half (51%) of all Americans approve of cosmetic plastic surgery. It shouldn’t be surprising then that, as the ASAPS boasts, “almost 9.5 million cosmetic surgical and nonsurgical procedures were performed in the United States [in 2010].”
Our culture does not deal well with its scars and imperfections.
Now, I’m not saying that all cosmetic surgery is wrong, but I am suggesting that Americans (or maybe people in general?) care a lot about what we look like on the outside and will go to just about any lengths to “fix” what we think needs fixing.
Lest you think that I’m ready to condemn our culture from atop a holier-than-thou pedestal, take a look at the photo on the top of this page, and think again. About a year and a half ago, I had thyroid surgery that left me with a scar across my neck and a new self-consciousness about my appearance. I’d love to say that I never think about the scar anymore or that it really doesn’t bother me, but I’d be lying. It looks a lot better than it did, but if I had my wish, the scar would be gone completely.
And yet, my scar reminds me of a lot of great things that God did for me. God allowed the tumor to be benign. He showed me love and support through friends and family. He provided financially for me through my church in Kentucky. God used a great surgeon in Taiwan to heal me. God taught me lessons about myself through the whole ordeal. Sure, when I look at my scar, I see physical imperfection, but I also see a reminder of all that God has accomplished.
Recently, I’ve been working through a Bible study with some of the other women at my school. It’s called Beloved Disciple, by Beth Moore, and it follows John, the disciple, on his journey with Jesus. Last week’s lesson took us to the upper room where Jesus appeared to his disciples post-resurrection and showed them His scars. Read what Moore has to say about this encounter:
“Suddenly Jesus walked through their barriers, into their hiding places, and appeared among them. We’ve been there. As a father has compassion on his children, Jesus has compassion on us (see Psalm 103:13). He knew that their finite minds needed Him to show them His hands and side. Don’t we constantly expect people to heal from life’s beatings and lose their scars? I’m somehow comforted to know that Christ still has His.”
The last two lines of this passage struck me profoundly. Our culture that is obsessed with plastic surgery perfection on the outside is often just as intent on masquerading life’s inner pain away. So often even we, as Christians, expect people to heal from life’s pain, disappointments, and trials and move on with no sign of scars. Yet, just as my scar is a reminder not only of my pain but also of God’s provision and protection, so are our spiritual and emotional scars a reminder of God’s work in us. What if, instead of expecting ourselves and others to walk around with spiritual face lifts, we allow brokenness and healing to occur naturally in the body of Christ? What if we celebrate life’s scars because of what the Lord has taught us and how He has changed us through the difficult circumstances of our lives? After all, as the Lord told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).
Let’s stop trying to plastic surgery our pain away and instead ask God to heal us in His way and in His time. Let’s come together as a body of believers who accept each other (and ourselves) scars and all. Let’s allow God’s grace to shine through our weakness.
What scars do you need to grieve or celebrate today?