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Sunday, July 26, 2015

The leper's feet...

The women in the leprosy ward have broken me ten times over in these past six weeks. 
They love being admitted here. 
In fact, they come back with only minor wounds, trying to get admitted just to get back in on the fellowship and family of the other women.  
They are stunning, sweet, and gentle souls that have intrigued, challenged, and captivated me. They are beautiful- absolutely beautiful, my favorite smiles of the week.

Can the health-nerd in me give you a little bit of an education on leprosy?
Though I could talk about this for days, I promise to keep it short and sweet. 

Leprosy is a disease in which bacteria invade the body and affect the skin and peripheral nerves. There's a lot of medical talk that would explain it's disease process, but, essentially what you need to know is that it causes a slow and gradual loss of sensation in the hands, arms, feet, and legs. 
Patients literally lose their sensation of pain. 
That might sound ideal on the surface, 
but let me assure you that it is not. 

Pain is the body's natural warning sign. 
It lets the brain know, "Hey! Something's not right here. Protect yourself!"
Without it, you wouldn't know things like how much pressure to exert on a door handle when you want to open a door. 
You wouldn't be able to feel if you were being burned, or bit by a rat in your sleep, which is a real problem here. 
You wouldn't be able to  feel the grass under your feet, or another human holding your hand. 
And, in my opinion, worst of all: you'd have no idea how to walk properly. You wouldn't know how much pressure to put on your heel, or your toes, or anywhere for that matter. 

It's this problem- the walking one- that has filled the leprosy ward with patients. 
Without pain and sensation, their hands and feet develop wounds, which turn into ulcers, which turn into bigger ulcers, which turn into, well, you get the point. 

If they were to seek treatment for the wound at its beginning, then it would be an easy fix. 
But, the problem is twofold. They either don't see it until it gets out of control, or, more likely, they see it, but it doesn't hurt; it's not that bad yet.
So they keep walking. Keep doing what they're doing.
And the ulcer gets worse.

The ulcers deepen, get infected, and expand.  
Toes get worn off, or have to be surgically removed. 
(Side note : I actually cut someone's toe off during a surgery the other day. I'm still so unsure how to feel about that...)
Bones get exposed; muscles get displaced. 
Toes start pointing in different directions, and tibias start coming through heels. 

But, these ulcers don't form over night.
They take days, weeks, months, and-the worst ones-years to form.
They are created by a repetition of the same thing over a long period of time. 

One patient came in with an ulcer that had been forming for five years.
Five stinking years. 
As I stared at her ulcer I racked my brain, thinking, "Why didn't you get help!? This could have been prevented!"

Once the ulcers have gotten to a certain point, the patient can be admitted to the leprosy ward. 
It's here that they’re put on "bed rest" and their ulcers are cared for, debrided, cleaned out, bandaged, and protected; it's here that they receive the merciful care and support that they need, so that they can return to their daily life. 

In these last few weeks, I have come to a startling realization: 
I am the leper.

Walking around with selfishness,
judgement, self-righteousness, 
dignified pride, and vanity in my heart,
I'm numb to the ulcers and wounds that sin is creating.

I've heard the Lord point it out before, 
seen it’s symptoms in the past,
but it was easy to disguise, 
easy to self-medicate, 
to pretend they weren't there & forget, 
to keep walking, 
keep doing what I was doing.

And the ulcers get worse, 
the disease starts settling in deeper and deeper, 
creeping into new parts of my body, 
new parts of my life. 
Until finally, one day, it can't be hidden anymore. 
It rears it's ugly head and bites, 
& I begin to realize that I should have fixed that long ago,
should have seen the Physician five years back.

So here I am, 
back at the throne of his overflowing mercy, 
finding grace abundant, 
and forgiveness unending.  

Isn't that how it goes? 
On our feet one minute, 
on our knees the next. 

The good news, though, is this:
Mercy triumphs over judgment, every time. 
He doesn't scold or mock, 
doesn't rub our face in the messes that we've made. 
He doesn't cast us out or hold us at an arm's length, like people do to the lepers. 
He doesn't shame; He doesn't hold it over our head. 
He's not waiting for us to have our ten steps to recovery ready for presentation. 

He draws near and says, "Beloved, you are forgiven. Come, get off your feet. Let's bandage up those wounds. Let's get you new shoes, so we can alter the way you walk. Let me clean out the ulcers, and make you fresh and new." He's capable of erasing and redeeming all wounds, all scars, all deformities. 

But, here's the best news: 
There's now a sulfone drug that can arrest leprosy at the first sign of its presence. 
Ulcers don't even have to form in the first place. Feet don't have to become deformed, and sensation doesn't have to be lost anymore.

While He's capable of erasing all wounds and correcting all things, there's a better option yet. The wounds and deformities don't even have to be there in the first place, not if we get help at the first sign of their onset. 
His love and presence are the sulfone drug to our sin, and he died so that we could have free access to that medicine.

May I encourage you to get close to Him, 
to continually be evaluating your heart for signs of sin's onset,
to constantly be searching yourself for fear, doubt, vanity, pride, greed, etc..,  
to not ignore the warnings, 
to not ignore his voice, 
to not be afraid to run unashamed to the throne of mercy now, rather than waiting until it gets worse? 

Because who really wants to be the woman with a hole in her foot, two toes gone, and a limp in her walk? Who really wants to be the woman with biting words, a bitter heart, and contempt on her lips? 

Every morning his mercy is new, which means every morning there are new things in us that need his mercy. 
Thank you, Lord, for coming close to us, even when we're covered in sin and should be cast to the outskirts of your village. Thank you, Lord, for your furious love and relentless pursuit of our hearts. You've always got our best in mind.  

And now a song from my very favorite songbird: 

video

2 comments:

  1. As always...so much insight, so much love. Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to seeing you next weekend. Freed a misses you. :)

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  2. Lauren your journey has grown you in depth and insight . What you may not realize is that you have helped other to grow as well. Strangers who have read your blog also are growing in their spirital journey. Thanks for sharing so others may grow. Hugs Nana

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