Wise Words – The Worth of Our Wounds

“God will not look you over for medals, degrees or diplomas, but for scars.”

Elbert Hubbard


Medals make sense to me.

School and work teach us to set goals and reach them. Success, and even survival, require us to become good at procuring the things we need. I’ve spent much of my time pursuing and displaying them. It’s easy to view achievement as the primary purpose of life.

But scars? That grabs my attention. 

When I think of scars, I first think of wounds, the places we have been cut or pierced. It’s more than a bruise. A scar results when the skin rips and we bleed. 

The events in our life can leave mental and emotional scars as lasting as physical scars. Think of the times when you have been mistreated, abused, insulted, or bullied. Do you have memories that still sting?

Scars also remind me of scrapes in schoolyard games and high school sports. They are the marks that prove you were willing to take risks and play the game, not sit safely on the sidelines. The risk to love, to use your gifts, to extend your reach, to offer yourself in service; each of these is painful when they fail.

But the presence of scars also means that we have healed, at least in part. The bigger the scar, the deeper the wound and the greater chance for healing. It means we have faced something ugly and raw and come out on the other side wiser and better equipped to face the next challenge.

I think Hubbard is saying there is real value in the pain we have suffered and the ways we have learned to navigate through it.

No life is free of pain, no matter how hard we try to make it so. The wounds and hurts are not just unfortunate mistakes we should have avoided. Our failures, disappointments, rejections, betrayals – they matter.

Suffering is instructive if we learn from our failures. Suffering is empathetic if it puts us in communion with others who are hurting. Suffering is cleansing if we stay in it long enough to heal. And suffering can be redemptive if we recognize the times that we have wounded others.  

There is a Japanese art form, kintsugi, where broken pottery is painstakingly repaired. Powdered gold is inlaid in the cracks. The scars, literally, glisten. 

That’s what our broken pieces are for:  learning, grieving, sharing, healing, and ultimately being restored to an even greater beauty.   

So much better than a medal. No wonder it’s what God is looking for.

Photo by SIMON LEE on Unsplash

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