A poet once said,
“We are all beautifully
are what help tell our story.
When we choose
to show up and share
our humanness with others,
instead of hiding
behind it out of fear,
we serve as an invitation
to create something
real-—and real never leaves
room for forced.”
When we brush past one another, arm against arm, we tug our masks tightly. Scars, they say, are hideous and not to be shown. Coat them with creams; cloak them with cloths; lock their memories in a bottle and toss them to the sea-—they are no one’s business but your own. I listen, and I bristle at this mentality. How many girls and boys, men and women drown, tricked into thinking that they are alone in this sea-storm called life? Sometimes, the most promising lifebuoy to toss to their rescue is a story. Just a story: a story of turbulence and triumph, and the scars to tell them, “You are not alone.”
And so I marvel at revelation. I marvel at it, because it teaches us to strut our scars and carry our vulnerability proudly. For observers, they are each a story wherein inspiration shines.
Study this scene from Qur`ān: we see an older Yusuf, once abandoned, once enslaved, once imprisoned, now safeguarding all the food stores of Egypt. Starving peasants throng his gates, which he opens graciously. And from this crowd, his brothers approach him-—the same brothers who triggered a string of misfortune that evening by the well-—they approach him now, peasants before an empowered king. We don’t know what buried hurt surfaced again when he met his brothers that day; we don’t know how he smiled through memories of abandonment; how he gave through his pain. Our Rabb never gave us those details. But we do know how bitterness simmered inside him when his brothers lied about his past: “They said, ‘If he has stolen [there is no wonder], for a brother of his [i.e. Yusuf] has stolen before.’ So Yusuf concealed it within himself […] and he said [in his heart], ‘You are in a worse spot than him, and Allah knows best what [lie] you allege.’”
قَالُوا إِنْ يَسْرِقْ فَقَدْ سَرَقَ أَخٌ لَهُ مِنْ قَبْلُ ۚ فَأَسَرَّهَا يُوسُفُ فِي نَفْسِهِ وَلَمْ يُبْدِهَا لَهُمْ ۚ قَالَ أَنْتُمْ شَرٌّ مَكَانًا ۖ وَاللَّهُ أَعْلَمُ بِمَا تَصِفُونَ
When you think about it, our Rabb could have skipped this detail. He could have plucked the perfect palate, the flawless, the wholly admirable when portraying His prophet’s life, but He doesn’t. Rather, He shines a subtle light at Yusuf’s emotions: his resentment, his anger, bundled in a bitter riposte. And we can hear Yusuf’s pain spill on the page when he battles to hold it all in. “…and he said [in his heart], ‘You are in a worse spot than him, and Allah knows best what lie you allege…”
If there is one thing this ayah taught me, it’s this: your stories of vulnerability and triumph are hopeful messages in a bottle; you never know which shores they will wash up on, which hearts they will call home. So please, take off your cloak, your cream, your mask.
Show me your scars, for by them, you are human.