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A cigarette heart


I have a scar on my hand, a sign of rage, a reminder of a man who didn’t love me enough to protect me from himself. A reminder that I was an unwanted, unloved child– a punching bag for the anger he felt towards my mother, towards the world, towards himself. It was his mark of evil, his pain branded onto the world, that cigarette that smoked my hand.

But for me, it was my own scarlet letter, my own imperfections seared into my skin, haunting. Always remembering, never forgetting. I was a wreck, an ugly wreck of a child, of a human. I was the scar, tough tissue and discolored skin.

I used to pray for healing, when I believed I needed it. Sometimes, believing I needed it, I also believed it was an impossible gift– I’d never get such a gift from someone, because I wasn’t loved enough. And so I stared at my scar, letting words of hate dig into my arms as they burned over me, giving power to that which had no power.

God wouldn’t heal my scar. It’s always with me, my constant companion of darkness, of the mystery of deep hate.

The mystery of deep hate overwhelmed by the mystery of deep love (and in that mystery, healing).

I started to look at the scar, to gaze in intrigue at my past, and at my future, to stare the ugly wreck right in the face. God turned the ugly into beautiful. He traded ashes for beauty. The One who rescued me from the depths exchanged deep hate for deep love. A small heart, a deep cut– a reminder of love, of mercy, of all the graces poured out on the cross. That is what I get instead of the ugly scar. A small heart, grace.

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