I played the odds and lost. There is a reason I don’t visit casinos or play the lottery!
1 of 3 people will develop shingles. That means 2/3 won’t. I was banking on the numbers falling in my favor. Alas, I became a member of the miserable minority.
If you’ve seen the commercials touting the vaccine, you have observed the painful lesions on the face and back of those suffering. My outbreak didn’t land there. No, I was “lucky” enough to have hidden lesions. While no one is running in fear that I forgot to remove my Halloween mask; I, instead, have a zombie-like gait. Because the rash stretched from my upper front leg around to my lower back, underwear causes additional pain to the already painful lesions. I realize that shingles on the back also causes problems for those wearing a bra. Either location – ANY place – presents problems for all types of clothing.
I left my doctor’s office with prescriptions to battle the disease and treat the pain. She also suggested I go commando and wear muumuus. I ignored that advice…at first. Later a friend suggested the same when I mentioned how uncomfortable clothing was to the lesions.
They both were right, so why was I resisting? I wasn’t going in public in the early days so why did it matter. Was it because I only have one muumuu? (Don’t ask.) Doubtful, because I have other loose clothing.
I think it was more of a control issue. I hated having the disease and simply resisted where I could. I would take medicine but wanted to be in charge of my clothing. Besides, it’s getting too cold for muumuus.
However, I eventually gave in to the advice initially resisted. What seemed to be a suggestion that ran against my “normal” behavior became the best course of action.
I could not help thinking about an individual in scripture who benefitted from following “off the wall advice.”
This health dilemma is found in 2 Kings 5.
Naaman, the commander of the army for the king of Syria, had leprosy. This man, encouraged by his wife’s servant, received permission from the king to seek a cure from “the prophet in Samaria [Elisha].” Taking gifts and a lot of money, he went to the king of Israel seeking a cure. Eventually finding the prophet, he received instructions to wash seven times in the nearby Jordan River.
Angered at the instructions, he left. Upset that the prophet didn’t address him directly, he was most insulted at the simplicity, and location, of the instructions. In his rage, he focused on the better rivers in Damascus and refused to wash in the foreign river.
Upon arriving home, his servants addressed his predicament. If the instructions had been complicated rather than simple, would he have followed them? Recognizing his pride in ignoring such simple advice, he immediately went to the Jordan and dipped as instructed. His health was immediately restored.
So, how is his illness like or unlike my situation?
- We both had skin diseases.
- But even though some wanted me to shout “unclean” when approaching, you can’t “catch” shingles just by being in the same room.
- There are health concerns and instructions to avoid infecting pregnant women who haven’t had chicken pox and infants.*
- Pride was, unfortunately, an issue for both of us. When pride arises, address it. Neither of us followed the advice offered until received again.
- We both received “simple” instructions to follow.
- Naaman was healed by simply washing seven times in the Jordan.
- I was not cured but did achieve physical comfort by changing my attire. The process of recovery continues.
No matter the topic, it’s hard for all of us to follow instructions that seem unusual. Following Christ involves obedience to uncommon admonitions that go against instinct and are counter-cultural.
“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. 10 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. 11 Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.* 12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. 13 When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! 17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. 19 Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,”* says the LORD. 20 Instead,“If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.”*21 Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good“ (Ro 12:9–21. NLT, Emphasis mine)
Taking advice to “go commando” or dip in the Jordan seven times can be comical and cause personal vulnerability, even when the health benefits occur.
Following Paul’s advice from Romans also leads to vulnerability – especially the passages relating to enemies. Take the risk. It’s not simple advice, but guidance that will benefit society and change a culture.
This is how love truly trumps hate.
* Information about shingles from the CDC can be found here.