Bob and Weave

Musings of an impostor. Welcome to the masquerade.

103rd Psalm Part 4: Healing

Posted by flyingbk on 10/26/2016

Perhaps my favorite book read this year is Falling Into Grace by John Newton. It’s my kind of book: gospel-based, simple yet profound. I could see myself re-reading this book to kick off each new year. It’s that good.

 

In his chapter on healing, Newton tells the following story:

 

There’s an old tale about a scorpion and a frog. One day the scorpion decides that he needs to cross a river. Since scorpions can’t swim, he asks a nearby frog to carry him across the river. The frog was hesitant. “I know how dangerous you are,” he said. “If I let you get on my back, you will certainly sting me and I will die.” “That’s ludicrous,” the scorpion replied. “Think about it. If I sting you, we will both drown.”

 

The frog needed more assurance. “How can I be certain you won’t just wait until we are safely on the other side of the river before stinging me to death?” “I would never do such a thing!” said the scorpion. “How could I? I would be far too grateful for your help to sting you.” The frog pondered the scorpion’s words and reasoned that this scorpion wouldn’t hurt him. “How could he?” the frog thought, as he let the scorpion onto his back.

 

The frog began to swim across the river, gradually feeling safer and safer. But about halfway across the river, the scorpion stung the frog. “You fool!” croaked the frog in agony. “Now we will both drown! Why did you sting me?” The scorpion replied as honestly as he could: “Because I am a scorpion. It is in my nature to sting.”

 

This tale captures our experience as human beings. We want to live lives of mutuality and cooperation, but far too often our instinctual programming sabotages our deepest desires. We resonate deeply with Paul’s experience: “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Rom. 7: 15).

 

 

We are at part 4 of my series on the 103rd Psalm (Past entries: Part 1, Part 2a, Part 2b, Part 3). As I covered last time, we all have a dark side. And sadly, we each know all too well that a feature of said dark side is an inner scorpion. We sting each other. Often. Whether it be in family, friendship, marriage, any kind of community, social media, fellow drivers, we frequently reveal our sinful nature by stinging.

 

I love how Jesus’ mission is summed up in Matthew 4:23 (NIV), which also fits with our study of this psalm, verses 2 and 3 (NIV):

 

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.

 

2 Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases

 

Jesus loves to heal. While on earth, he healed the blind, the deaf, the lame, the demon-possessed. But he also healed people’s fear, unbelief, shame. In fact, Jesus’ outward healings pointed to the inward. Jesus is about healing each of us, inside and out, our whole person.

 

Back to our inner scorpion. We all like to think that we do a good job of hiding it, and keeping it from rearing its ugly head. But I’m sure our family and friends around us would beg to differ. In his wonderful collection of essays titled We Learn Nothing, Tim Kreider writes about his late friend Skelly. His friend was someone who always exaggerated when telling stories; he felt the need to add in extra details to make himself look better or simply in an attempt to make the anecdote funnier. We all have a friend just like Skelly; in fact, I bet you instantly thought of someone as I wrote that description.

 

In this essay, Kreider came up with a brilliant term: The Soul Toupee. He writes:

 

Each of us has a Soul Toupee. The Soul Toupee is that thing about ourselves we are most deeply embarrassed by and like to think we have cunningly concealed from the world, but which is, in fact, pitifully obvious to everybody who knows us. Contemplating one’s own Soul Toupee is not an exercise for the fainthearted.

 

Most of the time other people don’t even get why our Soul Toupee is any big deal or a cause of such evident deep shame to us but they can tell that it is because of our inept, transparent efforts to cover it up, which only call more attention to it and to our self-consciousness about it, and so they gently pretend not to notice it. Meanwhile we’re standing there with our little rigid spongelike square of hair pasted on our heads thinking: Heh – got ‘em all fooled!”

 

 

The world is a cruel, unforgiving place. The older I get, the more I become susceptible to and weathered by insecurities, brokenness, rejection, failure. In addition, I can see it all around me in my older friends. I see people managing their disappointment, armoring up against any kind of possible rejection or failure, and simply giving up on certain areas of their heart and life. And as long as one doesn’t completely isolate himself, those flaws will show up. The soul toupee is on display for all to see, despite our best attempts to play it off or pretend otherwise.

 

I believe I’ve zoned in on my soul toupee. See, I’m an older single male. The vast majority of my friends are married with small children. So I spent a lot of my time third-wheeling, fifth-wheeling, seventh-wheeling, etc. I know I’m in a good place when I’m with them, I don’t think of what number wheel I am, and I’m simply enjoying good company. I know I’m struggling when I’m driving home after hanging with them, and complaining to God about how I have no one to come home to. And now, I’m fully aware that my married friends can also tell which place I’m in, based on how I interacted with them that night. (“Bob, you seem really quiet tonight…”)

 

We are all hurting. We all need healing. The good news is, God wants to heal us. It’s what he does. See his heart in Isaiah 1:5-6 (NIV):

 

5 Why should you be beaten anymore?
    Why do you persist in rebellion?
Your whole head is injured,
    your whole heart afflicted.
6 From the sole of your foot to the top of your head
    there is no soundness—
only wounds and welts
    and open sores,
not cleansed or bandaged
    or soothed with olive oil.

 

I noted in Part 1 of this series how Psalm 103 is a progression. So in order to know and experience how God heals all our diseases, we must get how God forgives all our sins. Again, if we come to grips with our dark side, and see that God loves us even when we’re extremely weak and undeniably dark, we are now ripe for healing.

 

We need to first fathom the wide forgiveness that God offers. Then we can better perceive the depth of his healing. We need to receive forgiveness for all the times we’ve stung God and stung one another. Then God can get to work on our inner stinger.

 

(WARNING: This part is gross.) I had this ugly abscess on my upper back in late August. It just got bigger and bigger with each passing day to the point that I couldn’t sleep on one side because it hurt so much. Finally, I knew it was time to pop this sucker. So I went to my bathroom and prepared for the battle ahead. It was late, after midnight, but I was determined. I found a rhythm: Squeeze hard on both sides, get some pus out, wipe the area down. My bathroom reeked of death. Every time more pus exited, the unbearable stink was replenished. I must’ve done this at least 15 times, but I knew it would be an abject failure if I didn’t get all of it out. I succeeded in my task, and I shudder to think what would’ve transpired otherwise if I approached that night halfheartedly.

 

We all need healing. We all need draining. The pain, the heartbreak, the suffering, the brokenness, the rejection, the disappointment. It all needs to be flushed out. If it’s not dealt with properly, the wound hardens. We grow jaded. Bitterness and disillusionment squeeze out room for joy. The past ends up defining our present and future.

 

So we must come to God, heart open, armor shed, past presented. We must pour out our hearts before him completely, leaving nothing behind. It won’t be easy, and it may even smell really bad. But then he’ll begin to heal us and make us whole again. He wants to heal all of our diseases.

 

 

One day, Kreider and his friends wrote a song and performed it for Skelly. The message of the song is clear: We know your flaws, and yet we still esteem you. Kreider notes Skelly’s reaction:

 

For all his secrecy and his fear of being seen, he was touched that we had observed him so closely, and with such love. He loved that we knew him. This is one reason people need to believe in God–because we want someone to know us, truly, all the way through, even the worst of us.

 

Praise God, for he does indeed exist, and loves us in our darkness. And he’ll also heal us as we allow him to explore every crevice of our hearts.

 

But you see through my forever lies
And you are not believing
And I see in your forever eyes
And you are forever healing

 

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One Response to “103rd Psalm Part 4: Healing”

  1. […] continue our look at Psalm 103 (Past entries: Part 1, Part 2a, Part 2b, Part 3, Part 4). We’ve been looking at this psalm as a progression that gets better and better. We are now […]

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