When I was 17 I travelled to Eastern Europe. During my time there I visited Sofia, Bulgaria for a whirlwind 24-hour visit. While there, I wandered through a large Cathedral. I have no idea the name of this church, but it was a beautiful, quiet and mysterious place. I wandered through an open door that lead to a stairwell into the basement where I found a large room full of art and religious icons.
Now, this was in 1993 just after the fall of the Communist regime in Bulgaria. This art had probably be hidden from view for a long time and was haphazardly leaning up against the walls in no particular order. It was a wondrously sacred few moments for me as I gazed about the room taking it all in. As I came around one corner I was rendered speechless by the sight of a gorgeous painting of the Orthodox Jesus Christ. It was gilded in gold and ornate, but that is not what stopped me in my tracks. What stopped me was a large, very vulgar-looking slash across the canvas.
That’s right, it had been cut. Sliced right through. I stood for several minutes imagining different scenarios that would have lead to the cutting of such a beautiful piece of art. After a few more moments of reflection and discovery I wandered back up the stairs and out of the church.
In the over 20 years since, I have often thought back to that painting and the profound impact it had on me. It was a beautiful piece of art, no doubt, but the artistic quality is not what haunts me all these years later. What haunts me is that cut, that wound, that scar.
I could relay in minute detail the particular colours of that painting. Christ was wearing a beautiful deep crimson gown with a blue sash and He had the most piercing eyes, and elaborate halo over his head. However, I couldn’t tell you one thing – not one – about any of the other dozens of paintings in that room. I couldn’t tell you if there were other icons or if the Mona Lisa was there. I don’t remember a single detail about the rest. And I have often wondered exactly why.
I recently have become a member of a fraternity of sorts with several women in my community. We are an extremely varied group of women – some of us are professionals and some of us are not. Some are artistic and creative and some of us are analytical and precise. But what is amazing is that I find each and every one of these women incredibly beautiful, wonderfully mysterious and truly unforgettable, and tonight, while reading some of the struggles they each are facing I realized why.
Just like that painting, it is our imperfections and our flaws that make us beautiful. It is the cutting of our canvases that makes of memorable. It is the slicing of our beings that make us captivating.
I don’t remember the other dozens of paintings in that basement because they were perfectly forgettable. But I remember the flawed and haunting beauty of the one that had been cut.
I struggle sometimes to mask my imperfections, to hide my flaws and pretend that I am not broken. But in so doing, I rob the world of the splendor of what I truly am. I am a broken, chaotic and glorious mess. I am a mystical painting with a big, old slash through my canvas. And that makes me remarkable.
So, the next time you are sitting with a friend and listening to their struggle fight the desire to hide your similar pain – don’t pretend you’ve never faltered or stumbled on your way. The next time you have the urge to cover up the scars from your battles, stop and think about this story. 20 years from now the people who love you won’t remember your perfectly coifed hair or your impeccably timed speeches. They will remember the tears that rolled down your cheeks at shared grief and pain. They will remember your words “Me too! I have done that. I have felt that.”
Let the slashes in your canvas show because it is your brokenness that makes you beautiful, my friend. And your flaws that make you unforgettable!