I don’t remember what it felt like when the steel bar tore through my face. The moment it happened my body was flooded with adrenaline and I got drunk on survival. I hit the ground running, streaming blood from a wound that would require plastic surgery and hope. But I probably need to back this story up.
In the seventh grade I was in love with my Santa Cruz Rob Roskopp skateboard. It was my whole world and one day I thought it would be fun to jump off a concrete loading dock at a factory. The plan was to grab what I thought was a stable bar and swing from it while my skateboard sailed off the four foot drop.
Unfortunately, they load and unload things on loading docks and the bar was unattached for convenience. When I grabbed it, the bar fell immediately, catching me squarely on a nose that would never be the same. I could have been killed, the force of the blow sandwiching my head between the loading dock and the steel bar. The doctor said I could have lost all my teeth but they were anchored in from the braces I had received a week earlier.
So for a few crazy seconds I ran through the streets, my face in my hands, my blood on my arms, while cars streamed around me angrily reacting to what they thought was a teenage prank. Finally, a red pickup truck stopped and gave me a ride.
Some of that day has begun to blur, the edges becoming fuzzy under the weight of so many years. But one thing I will never forget is the look on the driver’s face when I gave him my assessment of the accident. I clearly remember his expression, when I turned to him and said, “I hope it’s just a bloody nose.”
That was foolish. It ended up taking dozens of stitches to keep my nose on my face. My cheekbones were fractured. Years later I had to get plastic surgery to stay pretty. It was a serious accident.
And yet I told a stranger it was perhaps a bloody nose.
I think we do is exactly the same thing sometimes in Christianity. We take the blood and gore of our lives, the sin and the failure and the hurt and the horror and we tell everyone that everything is OK. We use the Christian F word, “fine,” and keep moving on with our lives. We hide the bad stuff and highlight the good stuff until no one can tell that things aren’t perfect. We shine up our scars until they look good enough to not be considered scars.
I don’t know where this temptation comes from. It might start the minute you become a Christian. It can be such a powerful, life transforming experience. Things feel different, you feel alive sometimes like you’ve never felt before. And when the gross creeps back in, when the high of a retreat wears off, when reality comes back and we realize we can’t be perfect for the rest of our lives, we get afraid. We fear that our initial moment of faith was fake or not good enough. It didn’t “count.” Christianity “didn’t take” to us. And so instead of telling people we know that things are bad, that we are still doing things that are opposite of what God calls us to, we sweep it under the rug. We take our first hit of the very dangerous drug called “Hide.”
Or maybe it happens when we go to a small group and people confess “safe sins.” Those deserve their own post but this is when someone shares, “I have to confess something. I have not been reading the Bible enough or praying enough or nursing enough baby birds back to health. I’m so ashamed.” Meanwhile, you’re thinking about all of your crap and suddenly those things feel really bad. For although reading the Bible more and praying more are to be highly desired, when they’re presented in the form of a confession they often silence the real in the room.
I intended to make this chapter 3 of the book but felt like more people than the mailing list might want to read it. And there are some posts that are heavier to carry than others. I did not run in from mowing the lawn when I thought about writing about side hugs for instance. But last night, while out in the yard trying to think of a Bible verse to illustrate this post with, I felt like God threw a not tiny grenade in my head.
Even though I wanted to wow you with lots of Bible verses, the idea I came in, covered with grass and dirt, to scribble down was a lot simpler than that. And it’s really just a question.
Have you ever thought about what type of party the father threw the prodigal son in Luke 15?
I didn’t until last night. I didn’t see the implications for you and me until I thought about shining my own scars. But you know what the prodigal son gets when he comes home? A welcome home party. The father doesn’t throw him a “you never left” party. He doesn’t call the servants excitedly to get things ready for the “everything is fine” party. Not at all, he makes a point of saying, “Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’
He says that twice. Once to the servants and once to the older brother. The father got it. The reason to celebrate was not that things were perfect. It was that the son had been lost, voluntarily so, and was now found. He had been willingly dead by leaving but was now alive. The fact that he had blown it, the fact that the son had broken his life was not a source of shame, it was a cause to celebrate. The gross of being lost and dead was part of what made the reality of being found and alive so bright and true and undeniable.
This is longer than I intended and I don’t want it to sound like I’m saying, “you’re smart enough, you’re good enough and dog gone it, people like you.” The truth is that I don’t know your story. And I’m not telling you to get into a “look how bad my past was” contest with other people. I don’t know what kind of baggage you’re carrying right now or what kind of scars you’re shining. I don’t know if you hate God or left the church years ago for some really valid reasons. Maybe you’re supposed to send this to a friend. I don’t know your story, but I do know mine. And despite my past, God loves me.
Stop shining your scars. It’s OK for them to be painful. The things you did and the things you had done to you hurt and admitting that out loud doesn’t add more failure to your heart. If anything, it creates a lighthouse of sickness in you for the doctor that came looking for the sick, Jesus.
We’re having a welcome home party. And it won’t be nearly as fun or as sarcastic or as interesting without you.