Ugh. Leviticus' directions on how to handle skin disease does not make for pleasant morning reading. A lot of energy flows into how to deal with blemishes, infections, rashes and leprosies. What the priests must have seen in those days! It would have been enough to make a dermatologist blush, I am sure. Aside from all the other directives on restoring cleanliness, and the myriad ways cleanliness can be disrupted by physical issues, I am both stunned and fascinated by the detail with which God articulates the manner of diagnosis and resolution of pathology for afflictions and functions that pollute the body (by Levitical standards).
I am also remembering some traumas from my teen years relating to skin issues.
Many pubescent youth have issues with their skin. Acne is for many the primary, public manifestation of an individual entering into hormonal adulthood. That ubiquity is evidenced by the ongoing proliferation of skin products that promise to restore skin while eradicating unsightly pimples, boils and swellings associated with acne, and celebrity endorsements of same.
|a "tame" photo of what it was like...|
My doctor prescribed antibiotic ointments, then OTC topical steroids, then prescription topicals in attempts to treat the issue. Some worked for a time, others did not help at all. Outbreaks and flares would come and go, and I became adept at hiding my hands and wearing long sleeves and pants (even on hot summer days) when things were bad.
It wasn't until my doctor prescribed an ointment derived from coal tar that I found relief. The cure stank to high heaven, but it cleared up my skin. All that remains now (on the surface) are some faint scars and an occasional dry patch of skin, but the lingering memories sensitize me to others when I see them attempting to live with skin conditions that leave marks, scars and other visible issues.
It wasn't easy to live and walk around with that skin issue. My struggles with it were literally out there for the world to see. When the cure made me stink like an oil field, even getting better was a struggle; and yet, in the end, I found some blessings to count:
- When things are bad, and you aren't so pretty or you smell pretty bad, you find out quickly who your real friends are
- The gratitude of having someone find you loveable you when you and many others don't see yourself that way is humbling
- You can't walk around blaming people for not wanting to be around you if your appearance or smell is tough to take
- You learn to suspend judgment of others who struggle with "conditions." There is a shared compassion that can and should be nurtured for fellow human beings who are too often hidden behind those conditions listed in Leviticus
|Jesus healing a leper|
It took a lot of trust, in God, my doctor and in the people who loved me, for me to overcome the sense of stigma that came with that bout of eczema. It takes a lot of faith to remember that those formative experiences are there for me, and others, when those moments arise in life when our appearance (or the circumstances around us) make us less-than-acceptable to be around. We all experience that recoil when the proverbial leper reaches out to us...today, I offer testimony that there is a person back there behind the rash who needs to know that they do exist and are remembered. So, when that moment of recoil hits you, take a breath and offer up a prayer to God that the Spirit will give you what you need to see, love and connect to that person. Restoration is a powerful thing, and it can only begin when we are willing to step past rejection and into sympathy, care and compassion for the other.