Saturday, August 4, 2018

A Pocketful of Hope to Pass Along

I didn't want to be known forever as The Girl With a Hole in Her Honker.

I hesitate to share this episode because there are people out there with such larger life and medical issues that it seems ridiculous to spend time and typing effort on such a minor one. But little issues teach us solutions to big problems we or others may later deal with, giving weight to our willingness to consider them.

And so I share that too much sunshine and not enough sunscreen in my early years has caught up with me; I have had numerous small spots of skin cancer removed at various times. Varying in levels of severity, most were basal cell carcinomas, the least worrisome of the bunch; easily removed by outpatient surgery and just as quickly healed. My most recent bout was with one of the same. But because of its location on the side of my nose with no spare skin to stitch the site closed, the hole that resulted from its removal had to be left as an open wound to fill in on its own.

Or so we hoped. I I had my doubts when I first removed the bandages later that day. The hole looked cavernous to me. Should it ever fill in, it was clearly going to take some time (the internet suggested 6-12 weeks!), a seeming eternity when you work in the public eye and would have to face 200 customers a day in that time period with a bandage on your nose. But the alternative was worse; if left open and exposed to air, the wound would dry, the filling-in action would stop, and I'd be left with a permanent “indentation”. Horrified at the thought, I had no choice but to get over myself, use the ointment I'd been given and cover the spot with the most inconspicuous band-aids I could find..

Most people were too polite to mention it. Only close friends asked about it, and babies sitting in the front of shopping carts who pulled binkies out of their mouths long enough to point at my nose and say, “Boo boo?” Their cuteness made me laugh, something I needed as much as the quick healing I longed for.

Initial return visits to the doctor were not encouraging. “It's coming along,” was all she would say. “See you in another two weeks.” I had hoped for more, or at least a more enthusiastic tone of voice. Back home to the band-aids I went.

It was at that moment of intense discouragement and ongoing worry that a customer-who-had-become-a-friend walked through the doors of the store and passed me on his way to do his shopping.

“Bar fight?” he asked with a smile, pointing to my face. I laughed and explained the situation, and suddenly serious, he stopped and really listened. Pointing to a spot on his deeply tanned skin, likewise on his nose, was a small scar. “I've been there,” he said. When I expressed my alarm at how unexpectedly deep a wound the surgery had left, he nodded, and said, “I was left with a hole so deep you could fish in it!” Amazed and thrilled to see that his spot had healed so completely, I listened intently as he told me that what worked for him was to cover the area repeatedly with vitamin E cream. He raved about the product, telling me he uses it on other spots on his skin, rubs it through his hair, even just dabs some on somewhere whenever he's simply having a bad day! Telling me our store probably carried the product and temporarily forgetting his own shopping list, he ran off to check. Minutes later he was back, empty-handed.

“What time do you leave today?” he asked. I told him, and he said, “Ill be right back.” Shaking off my protestations at what I knew he was about to do, he headed out the door. Soon he was back with a multi-pack of vitamin E cream he had purchased for me across the street. Touched by such a demonstration of kindness, I promised to pay him back as he waved me off and went off to get his groceries.

To my intense delight and relief, my wound did eventually fill in completely. I am left with a small scar that is becoming less visible all the time as I dutifully dab the cream he gave me on it. Looking back, the turning point in the healing process came when my friend shared his own positive outcome with me. Here was a man who had been in the exact same situation as I was, experienced the same doubt and fear, and now stood before me totally healed. The cream he bought for me is just the physical evidence of the real vitamin E he offered me: Encouragement. It filled my heart with hope. I suddenly believed I could experience the same result. Once my eyes were open to the possibility, I was suddenly able to see and hear other signs from God along the same lines. And the Bible tells us that what our hearts believe, our eyes can see. It worked for me.

You may not have a hole in your nose, but perhaps there's one in your heart. You may have experienced something that's left a wound so huge you can't see your way past it. Healing seems impossible; despite the old adage, this wound seems too large for time to ever heal.

Yet you have a Friend whose sudden appearance can likewise change the situation for you completely. Jesus listens to your fears, isn't offended by your tears, and understands what you're going through because He's been where you are. He's faced sickness and death and loss and hunger and homelessness and a host of other issues and yet never tasted defeat. And He has a solution for your hopelessness that he paid for Himself and now offers to you for free. I guarantee that once you are past the current difficulty, no matter how long it takes, it won't be the final healing you are grateful for so much as the fact that He came alongside you in the midst of your distress and helped you climb your way out of the hole the devil dug for you.

For weeks I carried the money I owed my friend in my pocket until I finally saw him again. Yet I am sure he wasn't interested in reimbursement. What he really gave me was an example. Let's not let our own survival stories stay with us, but share them with those who are in similar situations to offer them the same encouragement and hope that we ourselves have received.

Praise be to the...God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
(2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV)

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