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Scars Upon Scars, Grace Upon Grace

Allison Martin


The scar on my wrist is an almost perfect straight line. It runs straight up my forearm for an inch or so, then veers slightly to the right as if the surgeon looked up when someone said, “Lunch time.” I’ve gotten so used to seeing it that I rarely even notice it. Today, though, it looks a little different. That’s because I’m clumsy, and I played chicken yet again with a rack on my preheated 350 degree oven. The oven won, like always. My consolation prize was a burn that runs perpendicular to my old scar, making a classic textbook picture of an obtuse angle.


For the next several weeks I’ll be sporting a new scar to complement the old one. And this new one hurts. Especially at one certain point. I’m sure you can guess. It’s that point where the old hurt and the new one meet. What you see on my arm right now is a scar on a scar.


I have long since healed from the surgery that left my scar 15 years ago. Memories of pain and recovery remain, but I use my arm daily and never think of them. But this new hurt was especially inconsiderate to land where it did. Really, my recent little burn doesn’t even compare to the surgery that marked me the first time. But it doesn’t matter. Scars are sensitive. The passing of time can persuade us that it’s all as before, but let that place be touched by pain again and you’ll be surprised. It hurts more there. Even the little things, circumstances that wouldn’t bother other people too much. But for you, it hits different. Because it landed on a scar.

I just know that this life can hurt. And I’ll tell you when it can hurt the most: when our current hurt piggybacks on the same type of hurt from our past. Even if the first hurt healed, the second hurts more. It’s a scar upon a scar.


Like one who spent formative years suffering physical and verbal wounds, who is feeling the blows again from a different source. Abuse upon abuse.


Like the one who couldn’t seem to escape the label the bad kid or the bad influence, years later having innocent words twisted and their motives questioned. Misunderstanding upon misunderstanding.

It’s the girl who saw the backs of friends and family as they turned away, but convinced herself that it would never happen again. But it did. Betrayal upon betrayal.


It’s the girl who dreaded a lonely recess and sat at high school lunch tables alone, walking into a crowded room and feeling the familiar rush of panic from all those years before. Loneliness upon loneliness.

It’s those words spoken years ago that still taunt you, questioning your value and doubting if you’ll ever amount to anything. And now they’ve resurfaced. Someone else made a thoughtless comment or a cruel joke. Wounds upon wounds.


It hurts more the second time. Or the fifth, or the hundredth.


I hope I can bring some freedom and inspire some hope with what I’m about to say. First, the freedom: You aren’t crazy for feeling that hurt so deeply. You don’t have to downplay or hide the pain you’ve felt. You aren’t overreacting. It is important, and it is a big deal. You have an enemy who knows your every weakness and insecurity, and he specializes in hurting where it hurts the most. Usually, that’s on a scar.

Now for the hope: The pain from a second scar may be deeper. So is the healing. It is the trademark of God that every time He restores brokenness, it always seems to be done better than the last.


The testimony is greater the second time, because what God did once He has done again.


Grace for the old. Grace for the new.

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