The Scars We’re Meant to Have: A Wild in the Hollow Guest Post from Jessica Leigh Hoover
This gorgeous post from the latest installment in the Wild in the Hollow Guest Post Series is from Jessica Leigh Hoover, and I am honored she’s shared her story with you. I thought I might smooth through the truth here without a ding, but my scars, too, have something to teach me, and I read with a lump in my throat. I hope you feel it, too. Please welcome Jessica here!
I’m certain we’re born with questions. Lately my 3 year old daughter has been asking questions about Adam and Eve. Who were these ancient grandparents? Where did they go when the clink of the garden gate was heard behind them? She’s three and the ponderings she levels at me are born more of fanciful curiosity than ontological debate.
It’s made me think long and hard about how much of my wonderings got locked behind those garden gates. Did Adam and Eve walk the perimeter of their foreclosed home wishing for a way back in? Did they walk circles trying to get home for the rest of their life? The sorrow in their souls must have been beyond measure.
Grief. It’s cyclical. You round the curve on one side of it only to find yourself back to the beginning in the messiness of it all. I’m a child of loss. A full-grown woman who has never quite shaken the way loss crashed into her life at a young age. My parents both died before I was teenager.
I could write volumes about how their loss has shaped me. The majority of those ramblings would be grace-drenched and full of goodness because indeed God can take the ugly and turn it sparklingly beautiful, but as I’ve grown into my years I’ve felt the loss afresh. Along with the thin canyon of laugh lines spreading slowly beside my green eyes I’ve noticed the scars of loss etched more deeply in recent years.
Grief recently punched me in the gut. It was a sucker punch. The kind that has you seeing red and flailing your fists in hopes that you land a decent punch back. A dear mama friend, with a husband and two sweet littles, was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer. She was given 14 months max if the chemo worked, 6 weeks if it didn’t. She outlived the diagnosis for a whole 19 months.
Life went on within our circle during those 19 months. We took meals. We prayed. We sat knee to knee in Bible study. We texted and talked through plastered smiles even while things looked bad. We cried. We went on vacations. We had holidays. We watched the leaves start to flash their fall colors from our beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. I had a baby. A baby who came on the heels of a miscarriage.
My son was born healthy after a frightening emergency c-section. My friend was recovering from surgery in NYC in hopes that something might best the cancer devouring her body. She held me up in prayer while I labored my boy out. She knew things had gone awry when there was a long silence. She told me so herself.
Weeks after his birth and her return from the Big Apple we shared a couch in her living room. She was pale and waif thin. She wanted the whole birth story and she wanted to hold my newest baby all squishy and warm. I placed him in her arms and the contrast caught my breath. It was fresh life against graying skin and weak arms. That was the last time I sat and really talked to my friend before she passed. Her body cradling my son is an image I’ll never forget.
We both bore scars from recent surgery. She pulled the hem of her shirt up to expose a lengthy scar on her stomach without an ounce of shame. There was a kinship in our scars at that moment. Hers from all the unexpectedness of the previous year and mine from all the surprise of a normal birth gone quickly wrong. All the doubts and certainties about God’s goodness just piled up between us.
There was another time when scars hushed doubts. Thomas in the upper room with Jesus. He doubted. He looked into Jesus’s eyes and it was only when the God-man beckoned him to plunge fingers into the valleys of healed tissue that Thomas dared to believe in his heart. Could it be our scars when fully healed become the thing that allows us to believe in God’s goodness?
I can’t help but think I’ve gotten it all backwards. I want these scars gone. I want the heart etchings of pain erased. Jesus proved the depths of grace with scars. God is proving the depths of His grace with our scars. The scars remain but the doubts diminish.
I once heard Rich Mullins tell a story of how Irish women used to weave prayers into the fibers of their fisherman husband’s sweaters. They would pray over the unique stitches, full of color, in hopes that their men would return home from sea. Their one hope remaining that if their husbands were lost they could be found and identified by the threads of their sweater.
Are our scars how we identify God’s work in another person? Perhaps the scars are how God tells each of his children apart.
“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.”
– Mary Oliver, “The Uses of Sorry,” Thirst: Poems