September 9, 2011

the bite

"no man for any considerable period can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true." nathanial hawthorne, the scarlet letter

you are 7 years old, and you just don't know how it happened. you wore long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. you put the netting over your bed. you sprayed yourself with all of the right stuff. but somehow the mosquito still got you.

you didn't notice it at first, but while you were going about your day minding your 1st-grade business, something rubbed up against your arm. and for the first time you began to feel the itch. and as a 7-year-old, you realize that you have a mosquito bite, and you look at your arm in annoyance as you can't figure out how in the world you got that bite when you took every precaution so that you wouldn't.

and now that you've felt the itch, you can't think about anything else. but at this point in your life, your mama has established that you are to never scratch a mosquito bite because it could become infected. and so you try to go about the rest of your day normally, thinking about everything BUT the fact that the only thing you want to do is scratch your arm. but as much as you try to avoid the existence and irritation of your little bite, it's the only thing that you can think about.

you realize, though, that if you scratch it, it will turn red and irritated just like your mama said, and it will then become evident to all your fellow 1st graders that you did in fact get bitten by a mosquito and that you are in fact the proud owner of a bite. and in your 7-year-old mind, the idea of your friends knowing that you got bitten by a tiny, little mosquito would be just plain embarrassing, and the thought of eventually having a giant, red spot on your arm is completely mortifying. so in an effort to hide a potential wound, you decide to keep your mosquito bite a secret.

so you continue through your day, busying yourself with your amelia bedelia book. you pull your sleeves down so that no one will notice your little bump and so that you won't think about it anymore. and hours may pass where you completely forget that the mosquito bite is there. but then, when you least expect it, something rubs up against your arm again, and that quick and brief satisfaction brings about a sweet and sour relief.

and you start thinking about the bite. you look around to make sure nobody else is watching, and you take your hand and gently start to rub it. and you slowly begin to justify your action. rubbing it won't hurt it, right? mom didn't say you couldn't rub it. she said you couldn't scratch it. barely touching it won't break it or infect it. it's safe to make it just a little better.

until rubbing it isn't enough. so then you take your finger and start lightly scratching all around it. but you're not scratching it directly, so it won't hurt anything, right? mom didn't say you couldn't scratch around it. she just said you couldn't scratch it. you can scratch around it for a long time before there's really any problem.

until you soon just can't take it anymore, and in a moment of weakness, you completely succumb to the itch. using all of your fingernails, you scratch and scratch until you feel complete but temporary relief. you smile at the satisfaction until you feel something moving down your arm.

you look down, and you are bleeding. and you look up, and everyone else has realized that you're bleeding, too. little susie faints at the site of the blood. little daniel thinks it's the coolest thing he's ever seen. and soon 19 other 7 year olds plus your teacher are surrounding your arm. the mosquito bite that was once only a tiny bump that you hoped to hide from everyone else is now a red and gross wound that everyone else can't help but notice.

the teacher sends someone to get you a band-aid. someone else runs to get you some neosporin. but the truth is that as much as people offer to help you now, you've already broken the skin and created a wound. and in creating a wound, you've created damage that will be much harder to heal than if you had never scratched. and you've created a cycle of itching and scratching that will continue until you decide to scratch no more.

because the truth that you've just learned about mosquito bites is that once you scratch, it will continue to itch until it heals. and the only way for it to heal is to no longer scratch.

and so it is with our sin. we can't explain why we have the struggles that we do. we may have even taken precautions not to have them. they may all be the results of our circumstances or the choices made by the other people in our lives. but for whatever reason, one day that sensitive spot is rubbed, and they are then brought to our awareness.

and once we feel that itch, we realize that we do in fact have a mosquito bite, and it begins to feel impossible not to scratch. but in our humanity and immaturity, we are so ashamed of our struggles, that we don't want to reveal to anyone else that they exist. in some cases our struggles would be so mortifying and disgusting to others, that we dare not reveal them for fear of losing those relationships. so we roll down our sleeves and pretend that they're not there. and not only do we fool everyone around us, but sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking that they really aren't an issue. that there really isn't problem. that it's already gotten better. or that time and distraction will heal it for us.

but then it happens. something rubs that spot again, bringing the sensation back to our awareness. and while we know we really shouldn't scratch it, the temporary relief just feels so good that we just can't seem to ignore it. and we start making excuses and justifications to let ourselves rub it, scratch around it, and eventually fully give into it.

but when it comes to our sin and our struggles, we make the mistake when we don't let others know about the bite. when we keep our sin and struggles secret, we run the same risk as arthur dimmesdale in the scarlet letter: we allow the sin to eat at us from the inside out, and in carrying the burden of our dirt and filth alone, we fall victim to all of its effects. the faint itch wears on us daily with no one there to help encourage us not to scratch. with no one there to give us a band-aid to cover and protect the bump. with no one there to give us the anti-itch cream to relieve our temptation.

when we face our sins alone, we don't allow our relationships to progress for fear that the secret will be exposed or because our secret holds us back. we are so ashamed of our ugliness and hideousness that we would do just about anything to keep it from becoming exposed. but the truth is that until we expose our mosquito bites, we just create a cycle of itching and scratching that will continue until we decide to scratch no more. because once we scratch the bite, it will continue to itch until it heals. and the only way for it to heal is to no longer scratch.

the truth about our struggles is that we won't overcome them if we succumb to them. and we will succumb to them if we don't allow GOD and one another to help us overcome them. the bites will not heal with time but only by the healing hand of GOD, and we have to be there for each other in order not to scratch until we are healed. because if we are allowed to rub and scratch around our struggles with no one watching, we will never be able to overcome our sin.

the truth is that every one of us has our own mosquito bites (romans 3:23). but our bites were meant to be shared (james 5:16), and we are meant to boast in our weakness (2 corinthians 12:9). we were not meant to live a life of secret struggle and sin because just at the right time, our HEALER came with the anti-itch medication, at the very time we were itching the most (romans 5:6). and we are meant to encourage each other not to scratch until we are healed (hebrews 3:13-14). and by exposing our mosquito bites, one to another, and by sharing our struggles and sufferings, we allow ourselves to become more than conquerors (romans 8:37).

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