A patch of poison ivy rash has spread out like an angry red splash across the front of my left calf. For two days, I tried home remedies. Yesterday, after consulting with the CVS pharmacist (and placing a call for help on Facebook), I tried a few creams and lotions. They all have names like “Bad-Poison-Ivy-You-Be-Gone”. Great colors. Little relief.
Now there are a few tiny blisters on my left wrist and I am suspicious of the itching sensation rising from my right ankle. I’m not going to look.
This is the price I pay for vigorous weeding and not so vigorous leg scrubbing: an inflammation that is stridently present all day long and jolting me awake in the middle of the night.
Inflammation. Skin disease. I’m no Miriam, snow-white with leprosy. But just to be on the safe side, I’m not uttering any complaints against Moses.
Pain and discomfort. I have not suffered the indignity and isolation of those who have contracted leprosy through the ages. Although, if this rash spreads much further, people are going to ask questions (or at least avert their eyes).
Elisha sent a messenger to General Naaman. “Have a skin problem? Go wash seven times in the Jordan River.” Naaman clothed in anger and skepticism, stepped into the river. After seven immersions he came up with “the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.” (2 Kings 5) Naaman showed Elisha his hide was healed and spoke of the healing of his soul.
I like this story for all kinds of reasons. I like Elisha’s sassy attitude. I like that grace is dispensed even to the arrogant. I like the plurality of Naaman’s healings.
Jesus knew a bit about releasing persons from the burden of skin disease. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke there are accounts of Jesus touching a man with leprosy and curing him. The man cried, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean!” Jesus replied, “I am willing. Be clean.”
I like that Jesus touched the untouchable. I like his willingness. I like the the man trusted Jesus to make things right.
In Matthew 10, Jesus sent the disciples out to cure those with leprosy. The order to cleanse the lepers falls right in between the directions to raise the dead and to drive out demons. There’s a tall order.
I like that Jesus told his followers to go do these amazing things.
I’m not anywhere near the Jordan River. While immersion in oatmeal and/or some sort of salty concoction has been suggested, I’m hesitant. I’ll admit I haven’t called on a disciple to try to heal me and I’m not sure that any follower of Jesus I know would be willing to place hands on the angry red blisters welling up on my leg (nor would I want that!).
But this is what I’m thinking. The time I spent this evening with the Bible on my lap, re-reading the old stories of healing has been a blessed distraction. I am thankful that God’s grace can be poured out on anyone. I am thankful that Jesus is willing to touch, even when no one else will. I’m thankful that God trusts us to help each other in profound and amazing ways.
This rash will recede in the days ahead and eventually the purplish hue of healing will fade from my skin. I’ve read the healing stories, and I want the same for my heart and my soul, with its angry, red flare-ups, it’s bent toward stubborn isolation. Jesus, if you are willing. . . .