The body is a beautiful and miraculous thing. It is made up of millions of cells and a DNA structure unique to our being. One of the first things we notice on the body is the skin. Also known as dermis, this protective outer layer plays a key role in our physical identity. The color, feel and look of our skin shares a story. It tells the tale of one’s culture, heritage, and the physical trials he or she has endured. Basically, our skin is akin to the cover of a book and houses the story of our soul on earth.
Like the chapters of a book, the body is constantly evolving to share our latest story. Fortunately our book cover, aka the skin, is made up of strong connective fibers that allow for stretching as the body grows. However, if a part of the body grows rapidly over a short period of time, these fibers can become thin and over-stretched causing them to break. When this happens, tiny tears develop causing stretch marks on the skin. These marks are often long, narrow, jagged stripes and can appear on various parts of the body ranging from the belly to the breasts, thighs, hips, lower back and buttocks.
Stretch marks are common and, in fact, can be found on roughly 80% of Americans. Even so, men and women alike will pay thousands of dollars for creams and serums to minimize and hide this naturally occurring feat of nature. Whether out of fear or shame, many of us do not want our marks exposed and we choose to censor this piece of our unique biography. I find this incredibly sad because when we share our stories with one another, much can be learned about life and its meaning.
Consider one of the most beautiful stories of all time. It is the story of a mother. Although she may never speak of or write about the creation of a child, her journey reverberates through the interrupted lines of her skin. She is a woman who has birthed one child, maybe more. She is a creator; a giver of life; a vessel for humanity. Her saga is one of adventure, challenge and triumph all boldly composed upon her skin.
Her story begins along the marks of the belly that created the first home for the burgeoning child. It unfolds along the marbled lines of the breasts that provided the first meal to the wanting newborn. The climax appears upon the stretched skin of the arms that grew in strength from rocking the child into a peaceful slumber and then embracing him ever so tightly as he left for college. And, it continues on in the stretch marks of the beating and expanding heart that bursts with maternal love.
We may not all be mothers, but we all have a story to share and stretch marks provide the symbolic penmanship that author our adventures. Take a look at the family, neighbors, and even strangers that surround you. Look at the stretch marks upon their skin and you will know their story. Look closely at the stretched skin of the father’s muscular arms and read his story of working 12-hour days lifting bricks and mortar to provide for his family. Notice the tiny scars on the grandmother’s calves and understand her tale of walking to college each day to achieve her goal of being the first female in her family to graduate. Now, look into the mirror. Do you have stretch marks? If so, what story lives between those jagged little lines?
Next, close your eyes and imagine seeing through your skin and deeper inside of your body. Do you have even deeper stretch marks? Since the body is a vehicle for navigating this life, many of our stretch marks are physical and represent the ways in which we have grown and stretched ourselves in the physical world. But, many of us also have spiritual stretch marks that represent the ways in which we have grown and stretched our inner spirit. Do you have spiritual stretch marks? Would you like to create ones or develop more?
One way of stretching our inner spirit is to listen to the call of creation and to act upon it. For some, this is done through art, for others music, and still others writing. Like a mother giving birth to a child, each time you answer your call of creation you are giving birth to spiritual energy. Each of these spiritual births will produce the appropriate stretch marks, allowing your spirit to expand accordingly. Another way to stretch your spirit is through prayer and meditation. To find the activity that will best support you in stretching your spirit, simply ask yourself one question:
What activity makes me feel the most alive?
Need some help? Look at this list and see if any of these activities seem exciting to you. Don’t worry about whether you have a talent for any of these. Simply read through this list and allow your heart to be your guide.
- Learn a new recipe and invite friends over for dinner
- Acquire a new language
- Create a piece of art
- Bring a child into the world
- Paint a picture
- Write your biography
- Write a poem
- Share a comedy skit at an open-mic night
- Attend a guided meditation class
- Prune a bonsai tree
- Build treehouse
All stretch marks, whether physical or spiritual, are beautiful and should be honored. They are symbols of magnificence and a testament to our ability to expand, create, and grow. Like an army general donning his stripes, the marks on your skin tell a story of bravery and courage that should be worn proudly for the badges of love that they are.
If this pathlight resonates with you, I invite you to further ignite your spark by engaging in one or more of the following activities:
Where are your stretch marks? Are they mostly physical or spiritual? What story do your stretch marks tell about you?
I am a creator and contribute to the betterment of humankind.
I am ever grateful to be your creation.
You formed me out of dust and breathed life into my being.
I, too, seek to create and expand.
Breathe life into my masterpiece
and bless the expansion of my being
as I give birth to new creation and, ultimately, love into this world.
Quote Inspired reflections
“Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine, and at last, you create what you will”
-George Bernard Shaw
“Success is due to our stretching to the challenges of life. Failure comes when we shrink from them.”
–John C. Maxwell
“Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.”
-1 Timothy 4:14-15
“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”
-1 Peter 4:10