In April I had surgery for skin cancer. It was originally scheduled for the middle of May, but there was a last minute cancellation. The doctor’s office called me up and asked if I could come to the office in Hanover in two days. I hesitated.
As everyone knows, Lent and holy week are important times in the church. I was not looking forward having this procedure done a couple of weeks before Easter. I did not like the thought of having a huge gash and large bandage decorating my forehead while leading the largest services of the year.
But I decided it was better to have this cancer removed sooner rather than later. After several hours in the doctor’s office and two sessions under the surgeon’s scalpel, I came home with a hole in my head, a two-inch scar and twelve stitches on my forehead (six on the inside and six on the outside.)
While the doctor was stitching me up, he asked if I was superstitious about the number six. I replied that I was glad there was not another row of six or I could be accused of having the “mark of the beast” (666) on my forehead.
The surgery was performed on a Thursday, and the pressure bandage removed on Saturday. When I took off the dressing on Saturday afternoon, the wound looked pretty bad. I debated whether to wear a large Band-Aid on my forehead during worship the next day or let the stitches show. I chose to go au naturel.
I explained during the sharing time in the service what had happened to my face. (My wife Jude had been telling people that she hit me over the head with a skillet, so I had to correct that rumor!) Before and after worship, people asked how I was doing and expressed their prayerful sympathy.
But the best remark came after the service. As I walked out of the church, the family across the street (in the former parsonage) greeted me. I crossed the street to chat. (My daughter-in-law Sarah nannies for them, so I have gotten to know them.) Rachel was sitting on the steps while her two children, Gus and Leo, played nearby.
Five-year-old Gus took a look at my head and asked what happened. I explained the situation, and he was silent for a moment. Then he said, “It looks pretty. They’re blue!” (referring to the color of the stitches). I chuckled, thanked him, and pointed out that they matched my blue shirt. He agreed.
Only a child could look at a cancer incision and think it looked pretty. Only a child could see stitches as fashion accessories. Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” He who has eyes to see, let him see beyond scars to the beauty which is at the heart of all existence.