I don’t remember what it felt like when the steel bar tore through my face. The moment it happened, my body was flooded with adrenaline and I got drunk on survival. I hit the ground running, blood pouring from a wound that would require plastic surgery and hope. But I probably need to back this story up.
In the seventh grade, I was in love with my Santa Cruz Rob Roskopp skateboard. It was my whole world. And one day, I thought it would be fun to jump off a concrete loading dock at a factory. (I was constantly gleaming the cube in the seventh grade.) The plan was to grab what I thought was a stable bar and swing from it while my skateboard sailed off the four-foot drop.
Unfortunately, they load and unload things on loading docks, and the bar was unattached for convenience. When I grabbed it, the bar fell immediately, catching me squarely on a nose that would never be the same. I could have been killed, the force of the blow sandwiching my head between the concrete loading dock and the steel bar. The doctor said I could have lost all my teeth, but they were anchored in from the braces I had received a week earlier.
So for a few crazy seconds I ran through the streets, my face in my hands, my blood on my arms, while cars streamed around me angrily reacting to what they thought was a teenage prank. Finally, a red pickup truck stopped and gave me a ride.
Some of that day has begun to blur, the edges becoming fuzzy under the weight of so many years. But one thing I will never forget is the look on the driver’s face when I gave him my personal assessment of the accident. I clearly remember his expression, when I turned to him and said:
“I hope this is just a bloody nose.”
That would prove to be a foolish statement. It ended up taking dozens of stitches to keep my nose on my face. My cheekbones were fractured. Years later I had to get plastic surgery to stay hott with two t’s. It was a serious accident.
And yet I told a stranger I probably had a bloody nose.
I think sometimes we do the same thing with our faith. We take the blood and gore of our lives, the sin and the failure and the hurt and the horror, and we tell everyone that everything is OK. We cover our limps with holy-looking actions and keep moving on with our lives. We hide the bad stuff and highlight the good stuff until no one can tell that things aren’t perfect. We shine up our scars until they look good enough to not be considered scars.
I don’t know where this temptation comes from. It might start the minute you become a Christian. It can be such a powerful, life-transforming experience. Things feel different, and you feel alive sometimes like you’ve never felt before. And when the gross creeps back in, when the high of a retreat wears off, when reality comes back and we realize we aren’t perfect, we get afraid. We fear that our initial moment of faith was fake or not good enough. It didn’t “count.” Christianity “didn’t take” to us.
So instead of telling people we know that things are bad, that we are still doing things that are opposite of what God calls us to, we sweep them under the rug. We take our first hit of the very dangerous drug called “Hide.”
And there’s a great story about hiding in the Bible. If you’ve read this site for more than 15 minutes, you already know exactly what story I’m talking about. Luke 15 and the Prodigal Son.
Have you ever thought about what type of party the father threw the son?
A welcome home party.
The father doesn’t throw him a “you never left” party. He doesn’t call the servants excitedly to get things ready for the “everything is fine” party. Not at all, he makes a point of saying, “Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’
He says that twice. Once to the servants and once to the older brother. The father got it. The reason to celebrate was not that things were perfect. It was that the son had been lost, voluntarily so, and was now found. He had been willingly dead by leaving but was now alive. The hopelessness of being lost and dead was part of what made the reality of being found and alive so bright and true and undeniable.
The truth is that I don’t know your story. And I’m not telling you to get into a “look how bad my past was” contest with other people or that “if you want an even bigger party, wreck your life in even bigger ways first!” I don’t know what kind of baggage you’re carrying right now or what kind of scars you’re shining.
I don’t know if you hate God or left the church years ago for some really valid reasons. Maybe this post isn’t for you, and you’re supposed to send it to a friend. I don’t know your story, but I do know mine. I used to write church prayer devotionals during the day and take ecstasy at night. I mortgaged years of my life to things that wrecked me. I’ve been a sucky husband, a bad dad, and an embarrassing son. But you know what? God loves me.
Stop shining your scars. It’s OK for them to be painful. The things you did and the things you had done to you hurt, and admitting that out loud doesn’t add more failure to your heart. If anything, it creates a lighthouse of sickness in you for the doctor, Jesus, who came looking for the sick.
We’re having a welcome home party. And it won’t be nearly as fun or as sarcastic or as interesting without you.