Sunburn and Silver Linings

The last day of vacation I woke up with a tingling feeling on my lips.  When I looked in the mirror, even through the blur of twilight I could tell they were noticeably fuller — like the fairy godmother of plastic surgery had visited in the night.  I checked different body parts to see if she had generously waved her wand in other places too.  Sadly, it was just my lips.

As lucidity set in, I realized that my pink pout was the result of a sunburn from a long day of scalloping with friends and family.  I had taken the necessary precautions to protect my skin.  I wore a sunscreen shirt, a hat, and covered my face in so much SPF that I looked like a geisha on holiday.  Although I remembered the SPF lip balm and even reapplied it along with my milky white sunscreen, it was not enough to protect me from hours of swimming and sunshine.

I cringed thinking of the resulting sun damage and started down the long twisty road of lament and regret I know so well.  Then, for the love of mercy, I had a thought that I have considered often recently.  It framed itself as a question in the highlight reel of my mind:  Why would you ever think you would get through life unscathed? 

Life is full of losses.  We lose money.  We lose jobs.  We lose time.  We lose things that are dear to us.   We lose people we love.  We lose. No one likes to lose either.  We live in a world that tells us life is all about the win.  We are encouraged to minimize cost and maximize gains.  While that makes good sense in a lot of sunny scenarios, the reality is, sunburn or not – none of us get through life without experiencing a burn.  Accepting this as part of our humanity somehow dulls the sting of it.  Perhaps, so much of our suffering is exacerbated by our resistance to it.

We know that Jesus did not want to suffer and die the brutal death he did.  In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus said, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done,” (Luke 22:42).  He accepted the will of his father, the unspeakable fate that fires our faith, and he did so willingly.  There are no passages in scripture where he is lamenting the wounds of the cross that pierced his sacred body. It’s hard to imagine he could have suffered any more than he did. Yet, somehow, had Jesus resisted both the will of his father and the agony of his tormentors, his suffering would have been worse for himself and those who loved him.

Our suffering, however dire, pales to his.  Still, we don’t have to add to it unnecessarily through resistance, the futility of regret, or by living according to our will instead of his.  Accepting suffering doesn’t mean we won’t feel pain or defeat.  It just means we choose not to add to it.

So, I let go of the self-recrimination that I started towards.  It was done.  Later that day, I went to the grocery store.  I was too tired to bother with makeup but swiped bright pink lipstick on my still-puffy lips.  I may not get through life unscathed but that doesn’t mean I can’t wear my wounds well.

Read last week’s post here

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