An unscratchable itch is one way to describe eczema, which is an irritated or inflamed skin condition. Over the past year or so, it has been a new normal for me* – teaching me lessons about dependency, embarrassment and compassion, reminding me even annoying little afflictions can help me understand bigger truths
Eczema can hurt like an unexpected thrust of a thorn; pruning roses, I know what it feels like when my hand brushes against the formidable thorns on the old rose bushes in our yard. Its pain can be a real handicap! So, when Paul said, “I have been given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations.” I can now better imagine his frustration. (2 Corinthians 12:6-10)
Granted, on a scale of handicaps, mine barely qualifies for the least of them, but when the eczema flares, all kinds of simple chores and pleasures become more complicated because my stupid fingers hurt or bleed all over the place. And the itch is unsettling in the rapidity with which it robs me of charm.
I have learned eczema is not uncommon, and it affects children more frequently than adults -- I really feel for little ones who can’t understand how to cope with the spiky itching that is a hallmark of this thing!
The exact cause of eczema is unknown, but it's thought to be linked to an overactive response by the body's immune system to an irritant. It is this response that causes the symptoms of eczema. (See WebMD – my go-to source for freaking myself out!)
So, what is irritating me?
Too much chili or barbecue? Too many tacos? Surely not!
Or, maybe, this irritant is invisible: fear, worry, and resentments, or fatigue?
Because we aren’t certain of its causes, we have no foolproof cures. This year – when I screwed up the courage to mention my hands, folks, even younger than I, told me they struggle with crackly, dry, painful skin. Moreover, everybody has a recommendation for a lotion, ointment, or tonic, including superglue! Some suggestions work well, others -- not so much.
The relief comes and goes. Suddenly, tiny cracks or itchy blisters may re-appear, sending small shock waves of itchy pain. Interestingly, I can see those cracks are along the line where I formerly cut or burned my fingers or thumb or palm – it’s as if the healing has been superficial, and beneath layers of skin, damage persists – a reminder that being past something doesn’t mean being over it.
My faith teaches that God has separated me from my sins as far as east is from west. (Psalm 103:11-12) But I can recall details of what was buried -- which can be equally disabling and discomforting. The longer my walk with Christ, the sharper my memory seems, too! When the memory of my meanness -- in all the nuances of that word – breaks out, precious little relieves the awful spiritual itch.
The heart has its reasons, which reason does not know. We feel it in a thousand things. ~Blaise Pascal
I took a deep breath and listened to the old bray of my heart: I am, I am, I am. ~Sylvia Plath
Crackly skin may just qualify as another thorn, one that time and again drives me to distraction, or discipline and prayer. Like the unexpected tear on my fingers or thumb need cleansing and care, my heart does too. I need consider cleansing and talk candidly to God like David did. (Psalm 51) Or, maybe I need comfort, balm, which only God can offer, and also the literal help of sleeping well and eating healthy stuff. (1 Kings 19)
· The healthy and strong individual is the one who asks for help when he needs it. Whether he's got an abscess on his knee or in his soul. ~Rona Barrett
· Lord, help me not to despise or oppose what I do not understand. ~William Penn