One day, when I lived in Berkeley, I was waiting for a BART train in winter when a man came into the station and sat on the bench next to me; and he carefully draped a jacket over his lap. It was a beautiful fabric with beadwork of black, silver and clear beads and sequins that ran up and across the lapel, onto the sleeve and all the way down to the cuff. I exclaimed what a beautiful jacket it was — how intricate the beadwork. The man was obviously pleased that I noticed as he patted the jacket.
“It’s Christian Dior,” he said. I asked if he had done the beadwork himself. He told me the story of the jacket.
He worked in an upscale men’s clothing store in San Francisco, and sold this jacket to someone. About a week later, the customer returned to purchase the same exact jacket again. He, himself, admired the jacket, so he remembered. “What happened to the first one?”
The customer had gone to a party, gotten drunk and rough, and wound up at San Francisco General. The doctors couldn’t get him to cooperate to remove the jacket, so they cut it off him.
The salesman’s first response was, “Where’s the jacket they cut?”
Very casually the customer said that it was in the wastebasket at his house.
He asked the customer if he would mind bringing the jacket back to him. The customer returned later with the jacket. He took the jacket to a seamstress friend. The clothier carefully and proudly traced the beadwork and said, “This beauty is actually the scar of the jacket.”
The train came.
We all have scars that live on our bodies and in our hearts. Scars may fade, become less noticeable, but they are always there. We never leave behind the lessons and learnings; we become a beautiful piece of humanity, a patchwork of hurt and healing, junk as well as joy, and all of the experiences that have made us who we are today.
The intimacy of the Psalm 139 is so tender to us — not denying our brokenness. We need God’s knowledge of us, so that God can show ourselves as we truly are.
As the psalm ends, it voices a plea: “Please, God, show me myself, and lead me in your way.” God knows our ways already, but here we pray that God can show us God’s way, that we have learned to call discipleship.
The Rev. Eun-Joo Myung is pastor of Federated Methodist-Presbyterian Church. Sermon notes is a column by local religious leaders.