I was recently telling a story from my childhood in a small group when I realized for the first time, why my scars were so distressing to my mother.
Without going into all the details as I did here, let me just say that not long after my parents arrived in Bolivia as missionaries (within the first 6 months), I was attacked by the mistreated dog of some fellow missionaries there.
Living in a critical community of people who were not loving to one another bore it’s sad fruit
The setting was a critical missionary community, primitive living situation (putting it mildly), two babies aged 14 months and 2 months old when we arrived in the country, with expectations that my mom should be able to learn two languages that first year. My parents didn’t blink at those expectations which is even more shocking. But I digress. This was 1947. I’m guessing that a recently won war made Americans extremely optimistic.
Two years and another child later, plus lots of illness for my mom and sister especially, and our family was on a plane, back to the US. My mom had what was called back then, a nervous breakdown. She and my dad went away for a month and my grandparents took care of us. We were 4, 3, and 1 by then.
There were good times during their time in Bolivia for sure, but there was much that was very traumatizing as well and no one back then took notice. According to stress points, those years for them were so far off the charts that a person would shake their head and say with shock, “I’m surprised she didn’t have a breakdown sooner.”
God did end up taking care of some of the problems, but that didn’t heal all the painful, hurtful emotional scars
The missionaries whose dog attacked me refused to put the dog down saying God would take care of it. Actually, He did. A week later, the dog was hit by a bus! Messy, but effective. You can imagine the horror to a mom who felt totally unheard and unprotected after her child was attacked by the dog of people she worked with. Superimpose that on top of some of her issues from childhood and you have a big problem. Of course, back then, no one thought about such things. But that didn’t lessen their pain.
Years later, I would come home after being away for months, sometimes a year. Often, the first words from my mom would be about the scars on my face! I found it to be rather distressing. Now, I realize it probably was a reminder to her of one of the most difficult chapters of her life. It represented failure to protect me (guilt), anger at people who were cruel and who knows what else! A massive scar of hers for sure!
She was young and idealistic. She discovered she was human and frail in those days in Bolivia. There was no one to encourage her outside of my dad. No one to remind her that the expectations that she bought with her were insanely outrageous. GOD didn’t expect her to perform in the ways those missionaries, that mission board, and honestly, she did. He loved her. He was with her and was caring for her all during that time of much trauma to her spirit. She just never realized it. She was trying to earn favor with God that she had never received from her own dad who had wanted a second son instead of a third daughter when she was born. To make it worse, he was frequently very vocal about it.
Years later, my parents returned overseas…different mission, different country, different co-workers…
When I was in 9th grade, they returned overseas again, but to a much better situation where the missionaries were much more collegial and the living conditions were not primitive. They did much better there.
Why am I talking about this? For some of you, there are literal scars you have that remind you of terrible periods of your life. Sometimes, the scars aren’t as bad as the years they represent…sometimes they are horrible, just like those years. But for others of you, there are emotional scars that go very deep. They aren’t nearly as obvious as physical scars and are much more difficult to work on.
GOD is present, even in the very dark, evil situations
If we are in Christ, as difficult as it is to believe, GOD is present with us…even in these situations. I don’t say it lightly. They are truly evil and dark sometimes. But we have a choice. Is GOD big and present or does He take naps, blink or turn His back when these things happen? Does He have moments of weakness when He is powerless to intervene?
As painful as it is to answer, we know those answers are really difficult to think about! GOD loves us and is present. It is safe to say that there are plenty of times we don’t understand His ways. That is the simple truth of it. We are small. We just don’t understand what He is doing apart from shaping us into people with unique purposes for His glory even if we have no idea how those events fit together.
GOD has good purposes for our lives way beyond anything we can imagine. At some point, we will understand parts of the why’s, but only in heaven will we get the full picture.
So in times of darkness, I don’t pretend to give answers, particularly to others. I have no idea what GOD is doing! What I do know is that it is good and comes from a loving motive, but it may be painful for now.
As a result of my scars, I did develop a concern and care for people who had limitations, visible or not. I don’t know if it affected my choice to go into nursing or not. As much as I wanted to be one of the cool people, I never was. It was good for me. (I don’t think it had anything to do with my scars at all!) It helped me develop a tender heart. I needed it. I lean easily toward the sarcastic.
So there you have my story of some of my personal, literal scars. GOD used them in my life for good. I’m just now understanding another layer of why they were so painful to my mom.
Call to Action: Do you have any physical scars? emotional scars? How do you think they have affected you? Have you seen Jesus’ presence in your life related to their coming into your life? Has their presence in your life brought growth in unexpected ways? It will be helpful to write down the ways God is helping you during this time, especially if it is a season of suffering. Jotting down even the little ways God is showing Himself each day will help you realize He has not left you alone. He has not forgotten you. Later, you will be encouraged to eat it over and see how He helped you.