Sleepily I shuffled into the bathroom, anxious to get the day started, but unsure if I had the energy required to live it. I hadn’t slept the best last night. Again. No matter how many times I turned by body, I couldn’t get to sleep. But I was thankful. Somewhere after 2 or 3 a.m., my body had given up the fight and I drifted off to sleep.
I had made it through another night.
“Thank you, Lord,” I had thought quietly, rising from my couch.
“Thank You for giving me sleep,” I prayed silently, as I folded the blankets somewhat neatly on my couch. Thank God for that couch. An anxious breath escapes me. I hadn’t slept in my bed for weeks. And only for a few hours. Since I bought it nearly three years ago, I doubt if I had spent more than a month of sleep time in it. The only time I felt comfortable in it was the first week I moved to the apartment after selling my house– after my dad had died…
Methodically, I push back the shower curtain and carefully step into the tub. A song comes to me: “The Goodness of God” by Jenn Johnson of Bethel. As I sing out the lovely words under the warmth of the gentle spray, I feel a familiar sensation from my chest. It is part pressure, part pain. I look down to see a drop of blood fall, followed by another. And another. I continue to sing…
I suffer from keloids. Keloids are an over healing of the body that causes scarring due to trauma or injury. Sometimes they just appear. Mine started showing up on my back in my preteen years. They later spread to my chest—and after a bout with the measles, part of my stomach. I wear one on my face after getting the chicken pox in grad school. Sometimes the keloids can be treated with steroids, topicals, special injections or surgery. None of that really worked for me. My dad paid for me to have surgery to have the ones on my chest removed when I was 18. He thought it would help me. I wouldn’t have to stay covered up.
I had just started college. Like every young woman, I wanted to fit in. I wanted to make new friends. Have a boyfriend. Just be like everyone else. No matter what age we are, we never want to be ‘that one.’ The one who is different. The one who doesn’t fit. Being a plus-size, African-American girl at a mostly white college in Southern California, I wanted one thing about me to be unquestioned. Accepted.
What my dad and I didn’t realize at the time was that surgery to remove keloids in the late 80s was not the best thing. In fact, it was the worst thing I could’ve done. Keloids often grow back. Surgery only introduced more trauma to my body—trauma that resulted in more over healing and more keloids. Not only did mine grow, but the one on my chest often became infected, causing pressure and pain that only stopped—for a while—when it began to drain. Sorry. It’s not very pleasant…
When I began following Christ several years after college, I looked forward to what God would do in my life. No longer did I have to worry about my looks or my weight or my ethnicity or anything else holding me back because God can do anything. He can give me favor. He can open doors that no man can shut. He can send people for my life. He can get me married. He can heal.
And God does.
He gave me a wonderful life as an educator of adults and children. He allowed me see places that many people in my hometown of Compton, California never get the opportunity to see. Now in my 50s, He allowed me to get a new degree, start a nonprofit, and restart a writing career. God has also seen fit to let me outlive my parents and younger sister. I am still waiting for marriage. The healing for my keloids has yet to come…
“Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God…”
My voice trails off. I hurry to get out of the shower, but the irony of the moment is not lost on me. I am singing about God’s goodness while continuing to suffer. Surely, there is a message in that. Later in the morning, I find myself reading a devotional by author Kay Warren, wife of Pastor Rick Warren. She talks about how dealing with her son’s suicide and her earlier battle with breast cancer equipped her to comfort and encourage others. She was equipped because she chose to give God her pain and to take the comfort that God Himself had given her to help others.
To God we would all do the same.
I want to be ‘that one.’ The one who bravely, though with tears, bear the scars God has given me knowing that Jesus bravely bore His scars for me. I want to be the one who for the joy set before me endures my cross and inspires others to carry theirs. I want to be the one that points others to the goodness of God.
For further encouragement in your healing journey, please check out the forthcoming book, Scarred Like Him: Seeing the Beauty in the Life You Live by Redemption Press.