As you’ve probably figured out, I’m very reflective and self-aware. And I’m pretty sure it’s because of that that I love to hear about myself. Now, I realize this sounds terribly vain, but I’m just interested to hear things from other people’s point of view. Perspective fascinates me.
Anyway, I of course asked my mother about myself while we were chatting recently. I have cystic acne, and I was curious about what it was like for her raising a daughter in a very image-conscious world when that daughter might not fit the description of what the world considered beautiful.
Her interesting response was that she felt bad for me. I had felt bad for me too*, for a long time, but I wondered if her reason was different from mine. She explained, I knew that people weren’t going to understand and that it was going to be frustrating.
Not a lot of people know what cystic acne is or can identify it. Basically, it looks like I just have really bad acne and haven’t done anything about it for the past eight years. You certainly wouldn’t guess all of the different medicines and prescriptions I’ve tried.
I know this, because some people want to try to help. A woman once gave me a cream that she thought was a heavier dosage that I would need. I looked at the bottle, thanked her, and almost laughed to myself- my dermatologist had suggested a stronger version of the same medicine years ago. Another woman suggested that I stop eating brownies (one of my favorite foods!). “The chocolate is not good for you- it causes all of the darkness on your face,” she told me (I still have a lot of scars). Cystic acne actually isn’t caused by what you eat, but I stopped buying brownies for a while anyway.
It basically comes down to the fact that people see the symptoms, but they don’t know the cause. They guess, and they try to fix it, but they don’t know the cause. And you can’t fix a problem when you don’t know what the problem is.
The same is true of sin. We see the natural disasters, the pain, the betrayal and injustice, and we want to fix it. So we try positive thinking, partying, hard work, rallies, and more. And it seems sometimes like we make a difference, and sometimes we do, but we haven’t eliminated the entire program. We cry again. We hurt again. And we wonder again- why?
I went on a missions trip to Mexico this past spring, and I got to meet some wonderful people and have some really good conversations. One of our translators and fellow workers was an international relations major at the University in Mexico City. She told me how a lot of her friends view America negatively because they believe our government is corrupt. The idea, then, is that fixing any political corruption would remove a lot of the troubles that they were facing.
Her response to this really stuck with me: The problem isn’t the government, or the people under the government- the true problem is sin. So while we can be angry with certain people, or talk politics, the issue that we truly need to address is the sin within us, and that’s something that Christ has already done.
I completely agree. Here’s one way to think about it:
1.) God’s will is perfect. (Romans 12:2)
2.) Sin is anything that goes against God’s will/law. (1 John 3:4)
3.) We have all sinned, so there is sin in the world. (Romans 3:23)
4.) Sin affects the world negatively. (Romans 1:18-32)
So there’s the real problem. Sin. And we’re not strong enough to address it.
Here’s where things get exciting. While we were mucking around in the symptoms of our sin, and even producing the muck we were wallowing in, Christ loved us. He jumped right in there among the nastiness, though producing beauty rather than muck, and loved us.
I’m moved just thinking about how wonderful my friends were in high school. They encouraged me, told me I was pretty, and held me close even when I know my face was looking disgusting, or weird at the very least. How much more incredible is it that God, whose very essence opposes every hint of sin, was willing to not only walk among us, but to love us? And to die for us?
Christ did address the true problem when He died on the cross- He removed the heavy, heavy curtain between us and God and gave us hope. He is the ultimate remedy for the problem we can’t solve on our own, just as even though I know what causes my acne, I can’t make it go away by myself.
But God has placed us here to shine His light and radiate His love, which can make a difference, until He returns and makes all things new. We have a responsibility- we’re not to be lazy or to worsen the problem because we know Christ has it covered.
“What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?” asked Paul in Romans 6. “By no means! … thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.”
Instead, we’re told to be good stewards of the earth, to love our neighbor, and ultimately, to be imitators of God, as dearly loved children, and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2).
Paul continued in Romans 6, “Now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
* p.s. I don’t really feel bad for me anymore. Self-pity isn’t very beneficial, and there are so many worse misunderstood complications that I don’t have (Take muscular dystrophy for instance. People sometimes don’t recognize that people with muscular dystrophy aren’t just moving slowly because it’s hard to- they’re often in pain every single time they move.). And I’ve learned some good lessons that I don’t think I would have learned as quickly in a different situation. God sometimes works in ways that we wouldn’t have chosen. Perhaps that will be a blog post someday.