If you didn’t know me well and you glanced down at my left inner forearm, you might suspect that I was a cutter, or at some point in my early life I had tried to “end it all”. You see, I have two or three nasty looking scars on my inner forearm near my wrist that stand out and shout to the average onlooker “this chick has issues!”
That’s actually true – except my issues aren’t with people – they’re with heating elements. Like curling irons and clothing irons. Such things are tools of the devil and if I weren’t so vain I’d have heaved them into the trash long ago. I have a love / hate relationship with my curling iron. You see, I’m one of those gals blessed with curly (a.k.a. frizzy) hair that has a mind of its own and fancies kinks over gentle, pretty curls. So you can imagine my joy (“Praise Jesus“) when they invented the flat iron.
I so wanted straight hair when I was growing up – like all the cool “pretty” girls. In fact, before my freshman high school picture I sat under the ironing board, laid my hair up on the board and reached up and tried to iron all the kinks out of my hair. Can you just picture it? I bet there were a few of you out there that did the same.
Growing up, I bought all the latest anti-frizz products and cursed God secretly for this gift of frizz, so when I learned I could burn the frizz into submission I was ecstatic. The problem is that somehow, other body parts usually have a way of coming into contact with said heating element.
For instance, on the way out the door to my 25th high school reunion where I couldn’t wait to show off my stylin’ smooth hair, I noticed that a corner of the lace yoke on my dress (does that scream 90’s, or what?) was wrinkled…and why not just use my curling iron to help it lay flat? I went to my 25th reunion stylin’ a curling iron burn mark smack-dab in the middle of my chest.
It’s the same with my regular iron. I’m constantly hitting my arm on the top of the dad-blame iron. My mother always told me I should have a “day” that I do all my ironing…along with a day to grocery shop, a day to clean the house, and a day to do the laundry. Ain’t happenin’ Mom! I do all the above when I have a moment to spare, so when it comes to ironing my clothes I do that in the morning when I’ve decided what to wear, on the small tabletop ironing board that I hide behind the bedside table. I cleverly hide the iron behind my 8″x10″ picture on my husband’s nightstand on his side of the bed, so no one can see it when they walk in. Get the picture?
The first few times I tried this I turned the iron off when I was finished and placed it back behind my picture and then folded up the ironing board, slid it back behind the bedside table and my picture where the still-hot iron was lurking, letting my arm come down onto the edge of it and Yowza! Derned if I didn’t burn my inside wrist like a son-of-a-gun. Ouch!
Most people would learn after the first time and take steps to change the scenerio the next time. Maybe put the ironing board back before the iron? Ya think? Learning from my mistakes isn’t something I excelled at when I was younger. Or now that I’m older. If you know anything about me you’ll know that this is the sort of thing that God deals with me on a regular basis. “Ummm…excuse me Kris…it’s probably not a good idea for you to hold all that judgment inside towards that person you’re jealous of“. What? Me….jealous? Humph! And then that jealousy comes back around to bite me in the postier time and time again. So you would think I would say to myself…. “self…. maybe you should fold up the ironing board first and THEN place the iron behind your smiling face so you don’t burn yourself again.” No. That would be too simple. Here is what it took to finally get my attention to make change: Ugly scars, huh? There’s shame involved in that. Doing the same thing….over and over again…leaving scars that you end up blaming on someone else rather than owning them and chancing changing your behavior so it doesn’t happen again? What if I get hurt? What if I fail? Sometimes it takes getting burned enough times with scars to show for it before finally making change. Why is that?
It’s the same with my walk with God. Why did it take me so long to come to a place where I wanted to change and grow in Christ? Probably because I didn’t need Him earlier. I took center stage, so why would I invite someone to share that stage with me? Why take the chance of letting someone else upstage me? I’m learning that God’s grace is bigger than scars.
It starts with owning my “stuff”. Recognizing the need I have to be a different person. A different ironer. But also recognizing that nothing I can do on my own is going to facilitate a change within me. The change has already been made – I just need to learn to trust the one bigger and wiser than me who already did the work. But there is a way home and it starts with listening better to who God says I am and then trusting One bigger than me to do the work.
My latest book crush is a book called The Cure (John Lynch, Bruce McNicol, and Bill Thrall) that asks the question “What if God isn’t who you think He is and neither are you?” God’s cure for changing course (or doing your ironing differently) rarely comes in the form we expect. The authors of this book contend that ” If we see God through a veil of shame, we’ll think the goal is to “fix” the behavior. Shame wants us constantly trying to prove we’re not as bad as we imagine. In the Room of Grace, however we’re learning to believe we are no longer identified by shame. Our God doesn’t see us that way, and he doesn’t need us to see ourselves that way. We’re free to trust His delight and love even in the midst of our erratic, maturing behaviors. He wants us to learn dependence on Him instead of performance. We’re learning to trust His power in us. The beauty is, we actually fail less in doing so.”
So here we are….daring to want to do things differently….daring to change your course, but realizing that the goal never was about changing me. It’s to grow up and get better at doing things differently….because I’m already changed! Christ changed me way back when He hung on a tree and I chose to accept that gift. Trusting that what was already done on my behalf allows me to trust the One who did it without the messy condemnation or shame. And so I start to make better choices about how I store my iron. Now that’s grace at it’s best.
These are the lessons I’ve learned from ironing, and burns and scars. Burning grace.