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An ocean wave with the words: "Soul Songs: discovering the divinity of everyday life"

Crown of Thorns

I have a small scar on my face. In fact, I have many scars on my body from epilepsy, accidents, and other traumas. This one, however, was the one I was most afraid of, because it had the potential to be the most visible. It happened when I fainted one day and fell down a flight of stairs holding a glass in my hand. The glass shattered and gave me a cut on my face that required stitches. For weeks afterward, I frantically used healing gels and lotions to make the scar go away. I saw it as an imperfection. It was a piece of my own personal suffering. And it is hard to accept suffering or even the smallest reminder of it.


Suffering is one of the core mysteries of life. Every spiritual and religious tradition has a viewpoint and a teaching regarding suffering. We all suffer. Some of us suffer so deeply that we can’t stand the pain and try to opt out in one way or another. Drugs, alcohol, mental anguish, and, even, suicide result. And yet, it has been my experience that suffering is oftentimes the most hidden part of our lives. It is the shameful part of ourselves we don’t readily show each other. I look around and see a world full of people who don’t appear to be suffering. Movie stars, musicians, Instagram followers, influencers, and friends all radiate happiness and perfection. While pure positivity is a admirable quality, it’s hard for me to relate to. Suffering has been a core part of my life. This is why I find the figure of Jesus is so relatable. He struggled, he felt love and compassion, he overcame challenges, and at the end of his life, on the precipice of victory, he wore a crown of thorns.


I appreciate when people share their struggles, when they openly wear their own metaphorical crown of thorns. I love the glimpses of humanness I see when people are truly vulnerable, when they can be open about how they suffer and how they overcome, where they have fallen and where they have gotten up again. I need more of that and less of the Instagram-perfect, flawlessly-filtered lives the media is filled with. True openness is difficult to achieve, though. I, like many, hide my sufferings, my fears, and my challenges from the gaze of the world. To stop hiding them from the world I need to first stop hiding them from myself. And that takes acceptance and courage.


There’s a peacefulness I see in those lovely, vulnerable people who can talk about their struggles just as easily as they can relate their victories. There is a profound sense of purity and confidence in the story of Jesus wearing the crown of thorns. These courageous examples show me that victory comes when we are no longer are afraid of defeat. Victory comes when we can accept the scars and traumas of life as a crown of our own humanness.


I no longer try to erase the scar on my face. I have accepted it. The amazing thing is that has become more invisible than ever before, without my even trying. I stopped suffering from the scar as soon as I accepted it. Then time erased the wound almost completely. This scar is a far cry from Jesus’s crown of thorns and the suffering he endured. But his story and the example of many others has shown me that acceptance of suffering is the only way out. That to wear the crown of thorns is, actually, to wear a crown of victory.


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