“sore-eye-uh-sis” It’s a skin condition where patches of skin flare up in red, flaky blotches that itch like crazy and have an unsightly appearance. I was born with a small patch of psoriasis just to the right of my mouth. It has become a metaphor for sin in my life to me.
It spread to my eyelids and then to my scalp, cheeks, and in my ears. I have a special shampoo and some topical cream that I apply to keep the flare down.
there are a couple things that make it worse:
- when I scratch it
- when I don’t apply the medicine
- when the whether changes suddenly
- when I get stressed
It behaves just like sin:
Itching the scratch just makes it itch more. Yes, it is instantly gratifying, but when you give in to sin, you can get caught in a loop that is harder to get out of once you give in that first time. Itching also causes spreading of the rash.
When I don’t apply the medicine, it is like when I am ignoring God. I am not reading my Bible (Jeremiah 15:19), I am not talking about Him with my friends (1 Thessalonians 5:11), I am not abiding in the love of the Lord (John 14:4). But it’s easier not to sin when you are daily applying the salve of the truth to your being (Revelation 3:17-18, John 9:6).
When the weather changes suddenly, it gets drier or colder, I start to look like I have contracted dandruff and have flakes all over my face. Similarly, when my environment changes and I go on vacation or it’s a new semester at the university (any change, really), I always seem to backslide with the Lord. I get out of the loop of my habit of spending time with him. I am too busy adjusting to the change, and this causes the sin in my life to flare up.
Finally, when I get stressed. Stress usually makes me flare up. It has something to do with my immune system being on edge. Ironically, I usually neglect to regularly apply the medicine at the times when my life is most hectic. I get flaky and self conscious, and then look in the mirror and am embarrassed at what I see.
But God is:
- the answer to the itch
- the ointment for my ailment
- the calm in my stormy weather (Matt 8:25)
- and the peace in my anxiety.
He is the peace in my anxiety and my calm for the storm:
Here is how I usually solve stress: My first instinct is to gravitate toward something worldly or even sinful. For me, this usually involves spending time on the internet, youtube, webcomics, playing video games etc. Wasting time on what turns out to be a semi-satisfying activity. Something to make me laugh or feel like my day was not just all work.
Here is how to really fix the problem of a stressful/unsatisfying day: spend time with the prince of peace (Isaiah 9:6) and he will be your peace (Ephesians 2:14-16) and he will satisfy you (romans 10:12) and give to you of his kingly riches ( Ephesians 1:18). When I daily commit to spend time with this person alone and together with others, this person rubs off on me like an ointment (Revelation 3:17-18). Turning my eyes upon Jesus (Hebrews 12:11 & Song of Solomon 2:14) has transformed me (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Aside: Is it as enjoyable as those other things? Let’s just say Jesus has an acquired taste. He’s like wine, he gets better with age. In the long run, everything besides him just ends up rotting and losing its luster, while he ends up surpassing all things in enjoyability and richness, so yes. Jesus is better than Netflix.
He is the answer to my itch, the ointment I need:
You can conquer a scratch in two ways: by itching, or applying an itching cream. When I have the itch to sin, I need the itching cream of the Lord, not the scratching of worldly trash. Christ is the active ingredient of that ointment, and that ointment is the word. But that’s easier said than done. When I’m faced with an itch (pun intended), I’d rather scratch my face than put on the cream. When I’m in the hour of temptation, I’d rather sin than read the Bible. This is a problem.
But I’ve learned through this psoriasis that the most important part of avoiding the itch altogether is to be regular and consistent with my application of the ointment. Often My flare up is because I simply neglect to put the cream on regularly. Similarly, I often have trouble reading my Bible in a regular fashion, and then I sin. To help me, I read with others. We go around in a circle and read a chapter and talk about it. It makes me accountable.
To close, I’d like to further explain how this psoriasis is very much like sin:
The doctors told me I might grow out of it in puberty, but that hasn’t happened. Just like my psoriasis will probably never completely go away, I will never become completely sinless in this life (Philippians 3:12 & 1 Peter 10). Even when I am doing good, sin lies dormant. It is ready to crouch and pounce when I become vulnerable (Genesis 4:7 & 1 Peter 5:8). My psoriasis still lies dormant just under my skin when I am doing well to apply the cream, but it is waiting for a dry, windy day to come when I forgot to put on my ointment that morning.
And yes we do grow out of certain sins. For example, the psoriasis has completely left my eyelids. Analogously, I have also completely grown out of my sailor’s mouth. It wasn’t an intentional will to stop cursing, it was just that I was reading the word regularly and that urge to say “****” just sweetly evaporated over time (Exodus 23:39-30). I started to submit to that still small voice inside (1 Kings 19:12) that voice that adjured me not to sin (Song of Solomon 2:7 & 8:4), that voice that grew louder as I fed it with God’s word (Psalm 119:11).
A final note about the Bible: It’s not that knowledge of the Bible fights the sin, it’s that when you read the Bible, you get a person (John 1:1). And that person is Christ who has proven qualified to conquer temptation (Matt 4:11). He gets into you, like a warrior under your skin, and heals your affliction slowly from the inside. Knowing the law can’t do that, and a mere “I’m sorry” when we break it cannot transform us (Hebrews 10:1-2).
I also do not panic when I am having a breakout. My mom (tried) to teach me to apply my medicine no matter how well or how poorly my face was doing. Similarly, even though I’ve struggled with certain sins for years without conquering them, big and small, I just keep applying the ointment. In this case, 2 Corinthians 12:7b-9 is my anthem:
“7b …there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me– to keep me from exalting myself! 8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me”