At the age of 17, something happened that changed my appearance. And while I could have been really upset by it, I wasn't. Instead of an ugly mark, I saw something else entirely.
My parents and I were on our way home from visiting my granddad in Fort Walton Beach, FL. We were driving in Dad’s Dodge Ram pickup truck, and Mom was dozing by the window, while I sat in the middle seat reading a book I’d borrowed from Granddaddy. Chicken Soup for the Soul, I think. Without warning, my face was slammed into the dashboard. I could hear Mom whimpering a little and Dad frantically calling my name. “I’m okay,” I said, “But I’m bleeding.” Somehow I’d seen my reflection, I’m not sure in what. I cupped my hand under my chin, and we all crawled out of the mangled truck.
A van had crossed traffic right in front of us, and we hit it going about 45 mph. To make a long night in the ER short, I had a large gash on my chin, and it had to be sewn up on the inside and the outside. It was quite a gash.
Even when the stitches were out, my scar was a bright, angry red and jagged. You couldn’t miss it. Everyone noticed it, and people I hardly knew would ask what happened. I remember taking those uncomfortable moments and turning them into a chance to say how I viewed my scar. I was grateful for that scar because it meant life. God had decided to save my life that day, whether for a purpose or simply because it pleased Him to do so, I didn’t know. But I knew I wanted to live the life He’d spared with purpose. His purpose.
Fast forward to today, twenty years later. I catch myself looking so critically at the lines on my face, lamenting the unkindness of the aging process, and it is hard to imagine the heart of my 17 year old self truly not minding the ugly, red mark across my chin. It is still there, so faint now, the jagged edges fixed long ago. Even so, it still catches my eye from time to time, and I still run my fingers over it when reading or thinking about something.
It is then, in those moments when my thoughts settle upon it, that God uses that scar to shift my focus. He gently reminds me that aging is also evidence of life still being lived, of work still to do, of a husband to help, of children to show Him to, of hearts to encourage and lift, of a helping hand to be given, a card sent, a meal provided, a home opened, a smile given, an ear lended, a hurt forgiven, a seed planted, a bit of Jesus shown...until He calls me home.
I don't know when that will be, but I know what I'm to do in the meantime. And when I forget, when I lose focus, when I’m discouraged and filled with doubt, distracted or just plain tired, all I have to do is look in the mirror to be reminded of God’s great love and purpose all over again.