by Debbie Stovall
God tends to show me spiritual lessons in the strangest places! You too? Usually I’m like my friend Dena who says God teaches her spiritual lessons most often through nature and everyday life. Well a strange species of nature collided with my everyday life for a grand spiritual lesson just as school was starting back this past year.
As a mother of adult children, family time happens less and less frequently. So after a busy summer we finally managed to squeeze in a week away in a quaint little cabin on a serene lake far away from the rat race. My youngest son joined the family with several scrapes and bruises from working the ropes course and working out in the gym at the Christian camp where he had been employed for the summer. Boys!
Vacation was blissful. Swimming, kayaking, and cooking out in the daytime, and jigsaw puzzles and old movies every evening got it off to a great start. Then 2 days into our trip my son commented that his scraped leg was hurting. I checked it. It was a little pink and quite swollen. I went to the store and got some Neopsorin and waterproof Band-aids and told him we needed to watch it.
The next morning he hobbled around the kitchen as he cooked omelets for the family, all the while assuring us that he was fine. By lunch he could hardly walk, was having shooting pains, and the leg had 3 distinct pus pockets near the original scrape! Yikes! I knew. Staph. I’d never seen it before, but I just knew. After a scramble to find a local doctor who would take an out-of-towner, Dr. Mom’s diagnosis was confirmed, and we were getting prescriptions filled in no time. “Everything is gonna be ok,” I kept telling myself, not fully believing.
The infection didn’t get worse, but it didn’t improve either. At all.
After 2 full days of meds with no change, we headed home to his usual doctor. This doctor confirmed the previous diagnosis and changed him to a stronger medication. While waiting on the lab report to come back on the strain of staph he had, the sores began to ooze a thick yellow goo. My son slept and slept like Rip Van Winkle (his body was fighting a hard battle), so we woke him up precisely every 8 hours for medicine, but the leg got to looking nasty. (Don’t google staph infection pictures if you have a weak stomach! I’ve included a mild “after” pic below.)
Monday morning greeted us with a confirmation that it was MRSA – the strain of staph that is most resistant to medicines. I must admit this was quite a faith journey for me, but that’s for another blog. We continued our regimen of cleaning and bandaging and medicating and resting and taking photos twice a day to document the disease’s progression. Healing was happening, but it got to looking worse before it got better. Slowly the oozing, swelling, and redness diminished.
After 10 days of strong medication it finally looked like just a couple of scabs on regular pink-colored skin! Whew! Just in time for us to move the boy back in his college dorm. End of story, right?
Wrong. Four days later he called. The pinkness and swelling started up again! Back to the doctor. Another round of antibiotics. And that’s where we were at the time I first wrote this. “The rest of the story” was still happening. His Dr. jokingly said we wouldn’t get to call him “Peg Leg Pete,” but that’s all we knew at the time. God was in the driver’s seat, and I was just along for the ride. As it turns out, my son continued to get better and has been fine since, except for brownish scars where the infection sites were. The Dr. warned us that my son may have a propensity for the staph to recur in the future.
Now for the spiritual aspect of my long story. This morning God showed me clearly how that MRSA is a picture of sin.
Think about it. We go along working out, going on our vacations, running errands, going to work or school, raising our kids…. We think we’re doing fine. But underneath our skin those individual germs of sin are reproducing and growing. Maybe it’s jealousy or greed or bitterness over something from the past, or lying, unforgiveness or salacious thoughts. Maybe it is anger toward our spouse or a judgmental attitude toward a co-worker or our worship leader at church. But these are little things, right? We don’t even feel the need to confess them sometimes because “Hey, everybody else does that, too.”
But those germs of sin are growing.
That unforgiveness swells into hatred toward a person. Or our judgmental attitude toward a co-worker grows into vengeful actions because they irritate us. Or we take a pill just to relax because “it’s been a really bad day.” At this point it’s growing silently, unconfessed, just under the surface of life. We’re still doing ok, going through the routine of life. People might notice little quirks, but no one knows about our sin. Whatever it is.
Who knows what your sin is, I certainly know mine.
Then one morning it grows enough to get our attention. We feel that first twinge of pain sin causes. Our boss overhears us speaking harsh critical remarks – ouch! Someone catches us watching, reading, or listening to inappropriate things – ooh! Our lie is discovered – oh no! Or we get called in to the boss over issues with our accounts – we just hold our breath. Just as physical pain is good for us because it alerts us to the fact that something is wrong, these pains of conscience, pains in our spirit, are good. They alert us to the fact that sin is festering inside. If we are wise we will turn to The Great Physician in repentance at this point.
But if we don’t… this analogy continues. Before we know it, overnight it seems, these ignored twinges turn into pain that cripples us. We limp around with sin swelling within us and pockets of more infection springing up all around. Lying, cover-up, having to remember our stories, more lies, slip ups, more cover-ups… you know how it goes. Or that little flirtation with improper sexual thoughts grows into a stronghold of lady-porn, improper relationships, cheating, family pain, broken relationships with those we’ve loved. By the time we catch ourselves and are willing to repent, we have spiralled down and are spiritually sinful, rotten, oozing, scabby, crusty zombies.
Finally, from pain or consequences or conviction we reach our limit, repent, and go to the Great Physician.
But then nothing. I’ve repented. Why hasn’t God fixed my mess already? Why are people still upset with me? Why isn’t there a magic wand that makes everything right immediately?
Sin has consequences.
Relationships can be restored and situations set aright, but it takes time and seeking the Lord and set backs and immersing ourselves in the Word and prayer and being willing to admit our sin and seek forgiveness.
Just like the long process of healing from staph, healing from sin is a long process.
If we had Ebola, staph or even strep we would be heading to the doctor for help! Girls, we have a really bad case of this sin disease. We have spiritual MRSA – Malicious Radical Sin Affliction! It’s tough to fight and impossible to cure here on this earth. We will always be plagued with it lying just under the surface waiting to flare up, to grow and spread its evil infection through our souls, if we aren’t constantly aware, repenting, vigilant. We desperately need help.
Is there hope? Yes, always! We can daily go to “the Doctor.” The prescription? Read His Word. Spend time listening to His heart. Pray. Get together with other believers to be mutually strengthened. Change our behaviors. Make wise choices. Let Him search our hearts and reveal our motives.
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)
Choose to act obediently on what He has shown us and repent every day, if not more often. And don’t forget to confess those “little” things we tend to excuse ourselves for doing.
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin. Psalm 51:1-2