By Neil Harris
Technical Arts Pastor
“It’s not the measles.”
I’ve uttered those two phrases a lot lately.
About a month ago my skin started breaking out. At first, it didn’t seem all that serious, and I thought it was allergies. Throughout my adult life I’d become used to breaking out at the first sign of the weather changing. I thought nothing of it. But when a few days passed and things didn’t clear up, I started to wonder what was going on: chicken pox, mumps, shingles, eczema, dermatitis, someone rubbing poison ivy all over me while I slept… everything was in the realm of possibility and googling “itch skin bumps” didn’t do much to set my mind at ease.
All that time that I didn't have a name to put to what I was experiencing, I did my best to keep my distance from people, primarily because--although I didn’t think it was anything infectious--I absolutely didn’t want anyone else to have to experience what I was experiencing; but I also really didn’t enjoy answering the inevitable “What’s wrong with You?”s, with a sheepish “I don’t know.” For that brief time, a little bit of separation was prudent.
So when the doctor was able to put a name to my affliction, that name happens be Psoriasis, (you’re welcome to google it… at your own risk) there was relief, mixed with fear, mixed with hope, mixed with despair and a mountain of feeling that it is difficult to pin down with words. In that mix was one seemingly innocent, recurring idea kept creeping back to my mind, even as I dismissed it: withdraw.
Sadly, I’ve witnessed it happen far too often, people facing serious struggles and challenges (marital problems, struggles with their kids, a difficult medical diagnosis) withdrawing from family, friends, and the church, choosing instead self-imposed isolation. And I can say with certainty for the first time in my life I felt that pull. Really strong.
I didn’t want to have to explain countless times why my whole body was covered in blotches of bright red sores or why flakes of skin were kicking up off of me like the cloud of dirt that followed Pigpen in the old PEANUT’S comic. It sounded so much easier and more convenient to busy myself behind the scenes on Sunday mornings, to make up excuses to miss Life Group, to use my condition and the associated discomfort as justification to not be around or available in the office.
As I indulged those flirtations, allowing them to play out in my mind, I was struck by this simple truth: withdrawal is a short-sighted fix that creates larger wounds than it heals. Withdrawal is a temptation from the pits of hell and isolation is its fruit. Isolation is right where the Devil would have us live—cutoff from the encouragement, support and love of others that we so desperately need—especially when facing life’s most difficult challenges.
I’m certain we are all either currently facing challenges or that we will face challenges in the relatively near future. Your struggle will likely be different from mine, neither greater nor less significant, just different. If in the midst of that struggle you’re tempted to pull away and withdraw—don’t. In particular, don’t allow yourself to be drawn away from the church. I get that it can be difficult. That it can be uncomfortable. But the community of believers that God has woven you into exists to encourage, support, and care for you… let them.
From upcoming events to random thoughts, each week this is the place to hear from a staff member or guest writer.