Sunday, November 26, 2017

Hidden Scars

“As Christ does for you, help carry each other’s burdens and troubles." ~ Galatians 6:2
Every year, when winter starts to drag and they wanted to more activity than simply walking to and from classes, Tim and some friends burned a little energy by cheering on their high school basketball team.  Screaming and cheering was good for a few calories they reasoned.
When the Warrior’s captain swished a 3-pointer to take an improbable lead, a younger girl in front of them jumped to her feet.  She threw her hands skyward.  Faded scars ran down the length of one arm; small cuts veered across the large vein on her hand.  She quickly jerked down her sleeve.
While self-injury can be a squeamish topic, Tim knew it was an important one.  He had no training, no experience, no morbid curiosity - just a caring heart and grace-fueled courage.  He waited until they were leaving the gym after a disappointing overtime loss and approached the girl.
"How long have you been cutting?" he asked quietly.
She gazed into his soul, liquid eyes seeking acceptance or at least some refuge of understanding.
She motioned toward a more secluded area and slowly raised her sleeve.  It revealed the map of emotional pain.  "I've never told anyone before," she said.  "I'm only talking to you because you didn't freak out.
Tim learned over burgers and cokes, that Ally was a ‘cutter.’  Publicly she had everything together.  But inwardly she was a boiling cauldron of stress, family dysfunction and unresolved agony that had erupted into self-mutilation.  He listened empathically without interrupting.
“At first it was just safety pins,” Ally revealed.  “But like other addictions, the cuts needed to be sharper and deeper to obtain the same level of relief.”
In the beginning, the external scars were a visual catharsis that represented the internal wounding her family had inflicted.  But now Ally suffered at the point of utter desperation.
Eventually the two became friends.  Tim helped Ally find a Christian counselor skilled at unlocking the root of her struggles and helping her deal with stress in a healthy way.
Ally’s not alone.  In fact, Teen Vogue recently called cutting “the new anorexia.”  Chances are, you personally know someone who self-injures.
Cutting is more than a stress relief, it is a cry for help.  But the question is - what are you going to do about it?  You don’t need formal training, just a caring ear.
This week, pay careful attention to the conversations and encounters you have with your friends.  If they seem to be disengaged or have drastic mood swings, it may indicate a problem.
It may be an opportunity to engage them in discussions about the love of Jesus and the healing that comes through the Gospel.  God ain’t afraid of the tough stuff.
Healing Lord, please ease my pain.  Take all my rejection, despair, loneliness, anger, frustration, and sorrow away.  Have Your blood cleanse my heart and help me see the love, joy, and acceptance that You have for me.  Amen