New International Version (NIV)
26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
This past summer, I had shoulder surgery for a torn ligament. Four months later, I think that the surgery was the easy part! According to the surgeon, my body is in that small percentage of people who form strong, stubborn scar tissue – which in some ways is good because it prevents more surgery down the road. The downside –makes physical therapy a real pain because the stretching the therapist puts me through has to break through all that scar tissue. It would be easy to just say “I’m good with partial movement and strength” and avoid that pain, but I want my arm better than it was before the surgery. I have to push past that pain to receive the complete healing that is in my future, but like the my doctor said – that pain is only temporary.
Scar tissue comes after the result of some injury, surgery or some type of damage to our flesh. But what about those emotional scars we carry around? They also limit our ability to function to the full range we are created for. We all carry around scars – whether it be the literal physical or the proverbial emotional. I was 8 years old when my oldest brother Butch was killed in Vietnam. This event alone changed the structure of my family and we all carried the scars on our heart after this loss. Yet, I think my mom’s scars were deeper than the rest of us. Butch was her first born and at times the apple of her eye. He grew up hearing the stories of honor, duty, and love of country his whole life – which prompted him to become a Green Beret and follow in the steps of our dad and uncles. It’s also the reason my mom felt to blame for sharing those stories. She often felt as though God punished her for something or was playing trick on her because she felt her prayer for him to “ come home” was answered by having him come home in a silver, flag draped coffin; she felt betrayed and began down a path of anger, bitterness and unforgiveness that lasted nearly 20 years. The scars on her heart transformed her into an often angry, bitter and overprotective woman. She thought this transformation only affected her, but she was wrong. At the innocent age of 8 years old, I began praying for her to be happy again. I also wanted my family back – but I wanted them all happy again.
As the years passed by, I was tempted to give up on prayer thinking God’s answer was No. As I became an adult, I began to understand that sometimes we choose to hold on to those scars and hurts. We are created with freewill, and some – a stubborn will. Mom certainly fit that latter category; she felt justified. She told me that one day I would understand, but also hoped I never had to bear the grief she bore. Now that I am mom too, I understand. I have not lost my children to death, but I’ve seen them at various times, struggle damaging trials that have left their scars on our hearts. But – I make every conscious effort to not let that anger and bitterness take root. But that wasn’t the only lesson my mom taught me – I learned that God is faithful and can heal scars. He does answer prayer and eventually even the most stubborn of people, as well as their scars, can be broken.
One Christmas, after I married, my husband and I were greeted by a frail, yet radiant, woman. The whole house seemed to bask in the glow of the joy that emanated from her. Mom then told me about the dream she’d had that week. She was in church and went forward during the altar call. As she approached, the man at the altar wasn’t our family pastor, but a man in long, flowing robes with the kindest eyes she’d ever seen. As she neared him, he reached his arms out towards her. She noticed then that she had a cabbage in her hands. Her expression changed to puzzlement because “why would I have a cabbage at church?!” she exclaimed! Well – the kind man gestured towards this cabbage in her hands, so she gave this seemingly healthy head of cabbage to him and it changed into a rotten, stinking mess. The man then threw it away and she said “I can’t really explain it, but I felt different.” What does it mean?” All I could think of at the time was that her heart was represented by that cabbage and the image of the rottenness was the bitterness and the man the altar was Jesus who took that bitterness away because she gave Him her heart. She just smiled. She had finally pushed past those scars by giving her heart into the nail -scarred hands of her Savior. I believe she had a transformation of sorts at the altar – whether it was in a dream or vision – the result was the same. She was a new woman and my seemingly life-long prayer had been answered. I only wish my time with my mom had been longer than just a year – but cancer took her away that following Christmas, but that last year I had with her was priceless.
Scars are also a reminder of the healing process and the restoration that comes. Sometimes we have to push past that pain to receive the complete healing that is in our future, but like my Redeemer says – that pain is only temporary.