I picked her up promptly at 6pm. Later she joked that she thought that I was going to be late, because, well, black people are always late. I responded that I was an "on-time negro." We laughed. Anyway, when I arrived at her house, there was a gang of folk, mostly kids, outside in her neighborhood. As she walked out of the house, everyone stopped and stared. Perhaps it was my New Jersey plates. Perhaps it was her outfit. Here was a young woman who I'd previously seen in too-tight, too-short clothes, but she got dressed up for dinner. Heels and all. It was clear from her walk that she was uncomfortable in her shoes, but she took the time to put herself together and I appreciated that. She had on an asymetrical top with one shouler bare. As we walked from my car to Chili's, I noticed on a huge scar on her shoulder. Sadly, it wouldn't be the only scar I would see during the night.
You see, she has a 2 year-old daughter, is a high-school drop-out without a GED, has two felony charges, and just got in trouble last week. She also lost her virginity to her father at the age of seven, has held that secret from the person she loves most (her mother), has been raped, miscarried babies, abused at the hands of boyfriends, and has been bounced around from home to home and state to state. She's been diagnosed bi-polar, is a cutter, and yet, she has a light inside of her that God allowed me to see. Her light is undeniably bright.
I didn't want to be fake with her. So I began the conversation with "I am a teacher, an artist, but I am also a minister. I want you to know who you are out with. I asked you to come to dinner with me because I see something inside of you and I know you've been through a lot in your short life. But I also know that you have so much more living to do and I want to know how you want to live your life." She went from being this hard-rock girl who scowled most of the times I had seen her to a bubbly, smiling, teenage girl. But still there were the scars—visible and invisible. During the time we spent together, she did most of the talking and I listened. I listened with my whole body—my ears, my eyes, my heart, and my soul. Peppered throughout our conversation were tidbits from my own life. She saw a well put together woman, but I showed her discoloration and marks that point to my own life scars. Surprisingly for her, we had some scars in common. I shared with her the liniment and salve that I used to heal.
Despite her scars, she is hopeful. She wants more for herself and her daughter. She is a dreamer. I gave her some pointers on how to make what she wants happen. I encouraged her to take inventory of her life, including her so-called friends who don't have the same dreams that she does, and get rid of anything and anyone who isn't helping her to grow. I encouraged her, despite her past abuse, to recognize that her body is indeed a temple, worthy of love and respect. I encouraged her to forgive herself. I encouraged her to shake off her haters and to move towards the new life she envisions for herself. I encouraged her to walk in the light that is so desperately trying to break free. I encouraged her to hide her dreams in her heart, to write them on paper, to speak them aloud, and to measure every decision by whether or not they will help her dreams to come true. I encouraged her to believe God...
After cheesecake and brownies and almost being in tears, she and I left Chili's. I dropped her home. It was hard to leave her there. I wanted to take her with me. I wanted to show her something different. I wanted to take her under my wing so she could discover and develop the strength in her own wings. But instead I dropped her back to the place where many of her wounds were inflicted. Needless to say, my heart was aching.
My heart was aching, but then I remembered what God allowed me to see within her. I remembered that scars are marks of wounds, burns and sores, but they are also signs of healing. Tonight, I pray that she will be completely healed—physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I pray that her wounds will be reminders of how resilient she is. I pray that her scars will bear witness to how a life can be transformed. I pray that her scars will prevent another girl or woman, especially her daughter, from being wounded. I pray that one day, someone will love her, scars and all.