Yes, I know that cutting is wrong. I know that the idea of it is wrong, the acting out on that idea is a worse wrong.
But that doesn’t stop kids from asking “Why?”
One of my youth kids asked me this perplexing question not that long ago. “Why is cutting wrong? Why doesn’t the Bible talk directly about cutting? If the Bible doesn’t say anything about it, doesn’t that make it okay? Or is it a grey area, not definitively right or wrong? Is it a sin to cut one’s self?”
Not the kind of questions a youth pastor wants to answer over a text message, but I realized that I wasn’t in a position to demand a better form of communication. These questions needed answers, real answers. Not “Because I said so” or “Because God loves you” , though both are completely valid and true. I knew that this girl was looking for answers of substance, answers that made sense to her heart and mind. She did not need any condemnation or judgment, as so many have received when confronting this topic. Too often the Church has done this and actually driven people away from what should be open and loving arms. With this youth girl, I knew she wasn’t guilty of cutting. One can ask a question about cutting and not have tried. She just wanted an answer. So, trying to avoid a spirit of judgment and trying to embrace a spirit of love, I explained why cutting is such a devastating and destructive thing.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Gen. 1.1 NIV)
Then the Lord God formed a man from the dustof the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (Gen. 2.7)
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them…God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. (Gen. 1.27-28, 31)
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them! (Ps. 139.14-17)
When you open your Bible to the very first page, it reads something like this. “In the beginning, God created…” The biblical narrative starts and we are immediately introduced to the Artist God, a God who makes, a God who creates. We meet the Divine that forms and shapes mankind out of the dust of the Earth with His hands. We meet a God who is an artist at heart and has created everything, and especially mankind, out of an artisan expression. It was not by accident, it was not a mistake when God formed us out of the clay. We were not a side project, something the Divine started, put on a shelf for a while and then came back to. Rather, humanity was something that God started with intention. God created us with purpose. God designed us as something special and unique. Something like a painting.
I was astonished to find out that the Mona Lisa, a world famous painting, was so very small. From what I have seen in books, movies, even from images on the Internet, I was always left with the impression that the Mona Lisa was a large painting. The reality is quite different. The painting measures a mere 30 by 21 inches.
By no means a large painting, yet it is “the best known, the most visited, the most written about, the most sung about, the most parodied work of art in the world.”¹ Regardless of the size of the painting, regardless of the style in which it was created, each painting, every unique little piece of art is a beautiful thing. Every piece, every piece that was, every piece that is, or is going to be. Whether it is done by da Vinci or it is simply the drawing done by a 4 year old girl that hangs on the fridge. Every piece of art is beautiful.
We are pieces of art. We all are one of a kind works of art that God has carefully crafted together. One man really understood this. King David wrote a song and in it he said,
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well. (Ps. 139.14)
Fearfully and wonderfully made, uniquely fashioned and pieced together; that is who we are. All Mona Lisas in our own right.
This is our starting point. This is where we begin. If we are going to talk about why people shouldn’t be cutting, we need everyone to understand that we are a wonderful piece of art. We need to have it ingrained in our hearts that we are special pieces of God’s handiwork.
It was at this point that I was interrupted with a responding text question. “Okay, but what about those people that have already cut?” Another good question that required a good answer. I responded like this.
There are men that cut themselves, and not because they are bad with a shaving razor blade. There are women that cut their legs, and then try to hide the marks by only wearing jeans or leggings. There are teenagers that cut, and cover all their scars with dozens of bracelets and arm bands. Though they may be damaged, though they may be hurting, though they may be scarred, they are still people. They are still a part of the humanity that God cares so much about. They are still a part of the world that He loves.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3.16)
To call someone damaged, to say that a piece of art is scratched or cut, does not change the fact that they are a piece of art. To be scarred or thinking about piercing one’s flesh does not alter this truth. All paintings are worthy pieces of art. Damaged or not, the painting, the art is always significant. The piece is always cared about. The Mona Lisas, all of us, as screwed up and broken as we are, are worthy and loved by God. Our past inflictions do not change how God looks and loves on us.
When I think about beautiful pieces of art, my mind doesn’t just think about the painting itself. My imagination starts to run away and it imagines so much more. I think of a painting by Picasso or van Gogh, and I imagine the spectacular lighting that the art gallery had installed to heighten the viewing experience. I think about the red velvet rope that is hung in front of the painting, so that noisy critics or ignorant youth do not touch the painting. I think about the muscular and burly security guards that quietly and patiently walk the floor, making sure everything is in order.
So much care and concern has been put into keeping this work of art in such pristine condition. So much work has been done so that this painting is safe and secure. So much love was shown to this unique piece. And how much more care, concern, safety, security and love is there for the children that God loves.
The problem is that most people do not understand that they are so loved, that they are so cared for. The idea that they are so unique, so original in who they are doesn’t register or even occur to them. For most people that try to cut or do cut, they have a problem with seeing how beautiful and precious they really are. And they have a problem not knowing, or not believing that there is a God out there that loves them.
Instead they believe in the lie that they are a waste, they are the reject painting that gets thrown out or should be thrown out because it is useless. They cling to the misconception that there is no one that sees them as unique or original, and that there is no one that cares or loves them. Especially not some deity in the heavens.
The reality is, it just isn’t true. We are all loved. We are all unique. We are all original, beautiful pieces of art.
(A discussion on how to show or display this truth should have been had there, but wasn’t. Maybe it is will appear and be discussed on this blog at a later date.)
Then I asked the youth girl, “If you had an original, a unique piece of art, would you purposefully do something to harm it? Would you scratch the layers of paint off? Would you try to burn it? Would you cut the canvas?” To that she responded, “Of course not.”
“And while paintings like the Mona Lisa are priceless,” I replied,”every person, every teenage girl that fears the world around her, every woman that doesn’t like what she sees in the mirror, every person that thinks that there is a quick escape from the pain in the world, they are so much more than priceless. If there was a word that meant ‘more valuable than can be estimated’ that is how God would describe us. We are that special, that unique, we are that kind of a piece of art.”
“Why would you then do something to hurt yourself?”
To all of this my youth girl was satisfied. Once it was finally all explained, she understood why is a wrong to cut, why it is a destructive act to put a blade to the skin. The conversation ended, the text messages stopped coming and going that night. I was glad that she had asked that ‘why’ question.
But I knew she wasn’t the only one that was asking. I knew that even that night there were girls in my community that were struggling with the temptation to cut, and others that were giving into its lies of relief. So I decided to share this conversation so that everyone would have an answer to the question of ‘why is cutting wrong?’ and have it explained in a way that is so much more appealing and refreshing to the soul than an ‘I said so’ or ‘the Bible says so’.
My hope is that if you struggle with cutting that this will help point you towards to truth, that you will see that you are valuable, unique, a beautiful piece of art, just as you are.
If you aren’t struggling with this, but know someone that is, I hope that you would share this with them as a means of pointing them towards the truth and directing them away from the lies.
Remember, you are loved and a beautiful piece of art.
1. John Lichfield, The Moving of the Mona Lisa, The Independent, 2005-04-02
Arisha Ray Singh, Flickr
Grafik Ofis, Flickr