Keep the Sunny Side: Stretch Marks



BY REVEREND JENNIFER HAMPTON, OF SUNRISE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

Who’s ready for swimsuit season?  Anybody?  Not this chick.

The remanence of carrying my son Edwin for 42+ weeks and the season of depressive over-indulgence which preceded it are stuck to my belly, hips, arms, thighs… well, everywhere. Yikes. I’m not at all content with the current state of my body and am even more uncomfortable sharing about it with you readers. My heart beats a little faster when I look at the calendar and see the rapidly decreasing remainder of weeks before my family vacation, where like it or not, I will have to battle my way into a swimsuit (and stay there, even though some areas of my body will enviably try to make an escape on their own).

While I’m not content with my body, I’m also not ashamed of it. I know it tells a story. It tells my story.

The stretch marks on my belly are not at all attractive, but they are a beautiful reminder of my son. I’m so thankful for his little life. Rather than grimacing at these not-so-subtle marks each time I stare in the mirror, I’m humbled. They are part of who I am as a mother. They are evidence of the life I have lived. Why should that be shameful? I know so many women who long for the opportunity to carry a child; there are many who would gladly gain stretchmarks all over their bodies, simply to share the joy of co-creating life. I am not ashamed of those beautiful scars.

Today the morning news reported yet another victim of suicide connected to the aftermath of mass gun violence. There is growing scientific evidence urging us as a community to reach out to those who struggle with depression or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder—like the survivors of violent events, or the loved ones they left behind. So many suffer silently. As someone who has battled with seasonal depression, and grieved deeply for a personal loss, I literally carry the weight of my emotions. My body tells the story of this struggle. I’m not ashamed of this weight. I’m blessed to be alive. I’m blessed to have a community of support who nurtured me through. I’m blessed to have access to health care which takes seriously the need for physical and mental health. I’m blessed to be among those surviving, whose only loss in the battle is a bit of vanity.

For better or worse, our bodies tell our stories. The media and world tell us to hide those blemishes, cover those scars and keep our stories to ourselves. The world expects us to put a filter on every picture and wave the magic enhancing wand over our lives.

But not Jesus.

It’s important to remember that the resurrected Jesus had scars. His newly created, newly resurrected, fresh-from-the-depths-of-death body still had evidence of his suffering. The resurrected Jesus still had wounds. Have you ever thought about why those didn’t disappear? Why were they not completely healed over? Surely the same power of God at work bringing him back to life could have also removed those holes in his hands, feet, and side.

His body told a story, too. His wounds were a healing reminder of the power of God and evidence that he had been to hell and back.  Literally.

What’s the story your body tells? What scars or wounds do you hold? This Easter season, rather than aiming for the manicured perfection of a swimsuit model, may we have the grace to accept our bodies, our histories, and the scars that tell our story without hesitation or shame. May we have the grace to accept ourselves just as Christ accepts us, scars, stretch marks and all.


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