One summer, on my way to clean up after weeding, I yanked up a dead shrub. Suddenly, all of my limbs were stinging. To my horror, I saw yellow jackets glued to my legs. When they wouldn’t let go, I wondered if I was going to die!
After that experience, I considered wearing winter ski garb when gardening. But our southern heat and humidity quickly changed my mind. I’d like a Teflon cream you could apply like sunscreen that would protect you from stinging bugs and poison ivy!
Early in my Christian walk, I thought mature faith worked like a Teflon coating. I figured hurts, disappointments, and insults would ping off sound faith. While God has provided spiritual armor for us, I no longer believe the Teflon Christian is biblical or desirable.
The Apostle Paul was not Teflon-coated. He felt the stings of life. He made sure the Corinthians knew the great pressures that caused him to despair even of life (2 Corinthians 1:8). “For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears” (2 Corinthians 2:4 NIV). He even cataloged many of his physical and emotional sufferings in 2 Corinthians 11:23-29.
Going through suffering is how he came to know “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3 NASB). Only those who acknowledge their hurts and weaknesses are able to receive comfort.
Mama died when I was a teenager. Our family never talked about how ill she was. I guess we were in the denial stage of grief. Later, I realized how lonely that must have been for my mother (and was for us). We were so busy being strong we never said, “I’m so sad. I don’t want to lose you.”
When I learned my dad had terminal cancer, I prayed it would be different. God granted my request. On his deathbed, he wept with my sister and me as we spoke of his pending death. We affirmed our love for each other. We talked about our departed loved ones and the reunion waiting for us. We laughed through our tears as we anticipated some of the things we hoped to do in heaven. Our moment of “weakness” was one of the sweetest of my life.
In contrast, Teflon Christians who feel no pain receive no comfort. The barrier erected to protect insulates from the good so desperately needed.
I remember one such man. While his child suffered in the hospital with leukemia and through grueling tests and treatments, he boasted that his faith made him impervious to pain. I thought of the loneliness his denial must have caused his wife, child and himself. I also thought of the inevitable crash awaiting him when his feelings caught up.
How much better it would have been if he could have admitted, “I’m afraid. It hurts me to watch my child suffer and not be able to stop it. But I’m leaning on Jesus. His grace sustains me.”
While ski masks and thick clothing are not practical for warm weather yard work, I do wear long sleeves and gloves when working around my roses. And I keep an eye out for yellow jackets. In the same way, I can’t expose my weaknesses and sorrows to everyone. But being honest with God, trusted friends, and myself is much healthier than suffocating under layers of self-protection or other forms of Teflon.
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Debbie W. Wilson
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