I’m grateful to have Lawrence W. Wilson here at Live Uncaged today. Larry is an author, pastor, thinker, and believer in the power of God. He blogs at http://www.lawrencewilson.com. This post is an excerpt from his book Why Me? Straight Talk about Suffering.
As I walked into the studio, I knew I’d come to the right place. Better-than-perfect pictures of brides and families and even a few celebrities adorned the walls. I couldn’t wait to see what this award-winning photographer would produce for my very first professional portrait.
“I love the cane,” she said, after a brief greeting. “We’ll use that in the photo.”
“No, I’ll set it aside.”
“But it makes you look distinguished.”
“The grey hair does enough of that. Besides, I can’t stand this thing.”
“I don’t see why. It’s part of you. Your persona. It makes you look … real.”
But I hadn’t come to a professional photographer to look real. I wanted better than real. For one moment, I wanted to stand without the use of cane, to appear healthy and vibrant and fully alive—then capture that moment forever.
I have used a walking stick off and on for the past 25 years due to an advanced case of arthritis. After a series of painful surgeries, I am now able to move about normally. Yet I have been dependent on canes and crutches and even a walker at various times in my life.
These devices allowed me to remain mobile when my legs alone would not do the job. Perhaps I should have been grateful for that, yet I despised them for their appearance and their foreign feel against my body and, most of all, for their reminder that I am weak. Broken. Not normal.
The photographer finally relented and did what I’d asked. She created an image of me that shows none of my flaws, accentuates my better features, and makes me look better than I really am.
“Perfect,” I said.
But was it?
Pain is the common experience of human beings. No human life is complete without it. Though we wish ourselves to be strong, capable, fully in control of our circumstances, we aren’t.
Jesus understood that.
That’s why he chose to enter fully into our experience. To be born. To suffer. To die. That is why “son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him” (Heb. 5:8–9).
To acknowledge our suffering, even to embrace it, is more authentic, more Christlike than to pretend that we are somehow above all that.
I let her take the picture, finally. I sat on the stool in the photographer’s studio, surrounded by lights, feeling as if the whole world were watching. I leaned forward a little, resting my hands on my cane, and stared down the lens.
This picture revealed a different me than the one before, more sober, more honest—more real. I went home that night and stood before the mirror, alone, counting the scars on my body. Six surgeries on my legs have left them riddled with ugly red lines. How I have been ashamed of them. How I have hated them. How anxiously I have hidden them from view.
I have seen the scars on Jesus’ body. I have learned hat all real people have scars. All survivors have scars. All heroes have scares. All who have lived and loved and bled and lost and failed and triumphed have scars. We are the normal ones. We are real.
So I embrace these scars, my marks of Christ, for just as he, through suffering became like me, so I, by my pain, have become more like him. These have become my seminary course in Chrsitlikeness. For by them I have learned to be honest with myself, honest with God, and totally dependent upon him.
What scar are ready to embrace?