Choose Joy, Lupus and Chronic Illness, Personal


This post is based on a short piece that I originally shared on social media in the fall of 2014, during a time when my lupus was running wild. I was undergoing weekly low-dose chemotherapy injections to try to get my disease under control and experiencing all of the side effects that one might expect to accompany such potent drugs. I did not write those original words on a Good Friday, but this seems like an appropriate day to expand and share them on my blog. What better day than this to observe our own trials and woes, and then watch as they shrink to nothing when compared with what our dear Savior endured on that terrible, gruesome, glorious day nearly 2,000 years ago?

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:4-5 (ESV)

What is a scar?

A quick search at gives us this definition:

“Scar” (noun)

  1. A mark left on the skin after a surface injury or wound has healed.
  2. A lingering sign of damage or injury, either mental or physical.

I have many scars, as I’m sure most of us do. In fact, if you have made it into adulthood without any scars whatsoever, you must either have a physical and mental resilience far surpassing that of hobbits or you spent your childhood securely rolled in bubble wrap. We all have scars and every scar tells a story . . . some that we enthusiastically retell again and again, and others that we might prefer to forget entirely.

“Scar – a mark on the skin after a surface injury or wound has healed.”

I have one tiny scar on my arm, courtesy of an overly-exuberant splatter of grease. I think of bacon every time I look at it.

I have another on the inside of my ankle from my first time riding a scooter. The scooter was hot pink and had sparkles on the handlebars and I thought it was the most stylish mode of transportation ever invented by humankind.

And I have a scar (well, more like a tattoo) on my finger from trying to catch a dropped pencil before it landed in my lap. I didn’t exactly catch the pencil . . . it caught me. I distinctly recall the horror-mixed-with-hilarity that I felt when I lifted my hand and saw the pencil, with its newly-sharpened lead lodged deeply in the fleshy underside of my finger, dangling mockingly in front of my face. That was more than 25 years ago, and the graphite imprint has faded but not disappeared.

But many scars do not carry such pleasant or humorous memories. Most of my scars tell stories of the times in my life when things were fine enough, and I was fine enough, thank you very much. But apparently, I wasn’t really fine enough. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that God loves His children too much to leave us at just “fine enough.” He wants far more and far better for His children. He wants to transform us into the image of His Son.

So, God interrupted my vanilla, complacent fine-ness and said to me, “Oh my dear child, it is time you were broken. Prepare to be pierced.”

“Scar – A lingering sign of damage or injury, either mental or physical.”

Two inches south of the bacon grease burn, on the tender underside of my wrist, there is a small, pale speck. It tells of the time that three nurses and their supervisor were all unable to find a friendly vein anywhere else on my body. And believe me, they tried. So that’s where the IV went. The veteran nurse with wispy white hair and careworn eyes looked at me with pity and said, “This is going to hurt like hell, my love.” And then she pierced me. She wasn’t lying.

My most impressive scar is the one across the front of my neck. I like to tell people that I was pierced in the midst of a knife fight in a dark alley, but the real story is better. It’s a story that spans three years of my life and changed me in ways I’m still discovering. It’s a story that begins with a small but unfortunately-timed turn of my head and ends with a surgeon rebuilding part of my spine using a metal plate and 4 metal screws and a chunk of donor bone borrowed from an obliging cadaver.

And then there is the family of micro-scars that reproduced weekly on my belly over the course of several of the most difficult months of my life. I added to their number every time I pierced myself – voluntarily injecting terrible, wonderful, magic poison into my body every seven days. Poison that heals. Medicine that hurts. A potent brew that had the power to make me healthy – or at least functional – while simultaneously making me want to vomit at the sight of food three days out of every week and robbing me of handfuls of hair every morning.

Those scars may be small and the physical pain I experienced when I created them may have been minimal. But it took a huge amount of courage to choose and clean the injection spot, to fill that syringe, to intentionally insert it into my body. I’m ashamed to admit how many tears I held back every time I prepped the injection area. How hard I had to work to keep my dinner down and stop shaking after the injection was done. I’m one of those people who has to close my eyes and look away every time I need to have blood drawn. But you can’t look away when you’re the one holding the needle.

Already, these scars are fading. And yet, to this day I cannot smell rubbing alcohol without instant panic rising in my chest and a sick feeling sweeping through my stomach. The scars may be fading, but the memory isn’t. I’m not sure I want it to. In fact, I think that I’d like the scars themselves to stick around too. They tell an important story. A story of the slow, gradual strengthening that only happens when one fights the same small battles over and over.

“. . . a lingering sign of damage . . .”

What will our resurrected bodies be like? Glorified, we know. And perfected. But what will that actually mean for me? Will I be unbruised? Unbroken? Beautiful? Thin?

Will I be un-scarred?

I have an Elder Brother who has already received His new, glorified body, so I will ask Him.

“Then He said to Thomas, ‘Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side.’” John 20:27 (NKJV)

A glorified body. A perfect body. A pierced body.

Pierced . . . with a tiny, sterile needle? Cut . . . by a shining scalpel expertly wielded by a surgeon skilled in the art of spinal repairs?

Not at all.

He was pierced by thorns. Shredded by angry whips. Impaled by nails large enough to support His entire body weight. Run through by a Roman spear.

“Tell me, ye who hear him groaning, was there ever grief like his?” *

Never. Never in all the history of the world, both past and future, was there ever grief like His.

Why? Why would He subject Himself to such agony? I shudder at the mere memory of those weekly piercings – those brief battles with the smallest syringe you’ll ever see. I barely had the strength of will to subject myself to what was, in reality, the lightest and most momentary of afflictions. Such a small, insignificant trial. But I recoil at the thought of ever having to do that to myself again.

Why would anyone volunteer for the suffering endured by Jesus on that terrible Friday that we call Good?

“. . . he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed . . .”

Christ was pierced because of my sin (and yours).

Christ was crushed because of my iniquity (and yours).

Christ was voluntarily wounded beyond anything I can even imagine so that I may be healed. So that I may be made perfect, in both body and soul. So that I may be resurrected with Him.

By His wounds I am healed, and by the power of His resurrection, I will one day be made new and completely whole. I will receive a glorified body like His gloried body.

What will that glorified body be like? Perfect? Perfect, yet visibly pierced? Will I still bear the physical scars of my momentary afflictions?

I honestly don’t know.

But I do know that there are some scars that I will no longer bear. There are some wounds that will be healed entirely and completely, without leaving the faintest hint of a blemish. Sin-scars. Heart-wounds. Spirit-bruises. Soul-piercings. Those scars will be gone completely and forever.

“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4 (NKJV)

Thanks be to God.

~ Cassandra Marie

*Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted by Thomas Kelly

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