It’s the weirdest thing. Someone could come up behind you and tap you on the shoulder and you wouldn’t even know it. Almost all your toes are gone, because you never know when you stub them. Just this morning you found a festering sore on your wrist. You never noticed it before, but it’s obviously been there for quite a while.
You’re a leper. Living outside the city was an adjustment at first, but now you’re part of a leper family. You never really look at each other because your disease is so disfiguring that you are ashamed to lift your head, but it’s still nice to have a group of sympathizing friends. Over time, you’ve almost gotten used to this outsider’s life, but you still miss your real family, your old friends, and especially the feeling of touch. If only it were possible for a leper to be healed!
Today there is hope. You and your nine other leper friends wake up while it’s still dark and hurry toward a certain village. Normally you are a noisy bunch, always yelling out “Unclean!” and making your presence known, but today is different. There’s a sort of hushed excitement pulling your group along. The whispered name of Jesus floats from one side of your huddle to the other, a path of grotesque, disfigured smiles follow wherever it is said.
Finally, you reach the village. It’s morning now, and normal people are starting to go out and about. You wait on the outskirts, hoping that you won’t be sent away before He gets there.
And then you see Him. A shout rises from one of your desperate friends, and soon you are all calling out in unison. “Jesus! Master! Have mercy on us!”
He draws near. “Go show yourselves unto the priests.” You stumble over one another, running, shuffling, tearing off the bandages that hold you back and restrict your movement.
Wham! Pain surges through your knees and hands as you slam into the gravel road. Pain! Did you really feel that? The palms of your hands pulse as they start to bleed. Tears come to your eyes: tears of joy. You can feel!
Turning, you run back to Jesus and fall again, this time at His feet.
Often, when I read this story, it makes me wonder what the lepers felt like after they were healed. Being healed from leprosy is a strange sort of healing. Normally you know you are healed when the pain has gone away, but for a leper, it is when they feel the pain that they know they are on the path to recovery.
As strange as this may sound, I think that is how it is when one becomes a Christian. While in the world, we are calloused, hardened, and unfeeling, but when Christ comes into our hearts, He makes us tender and compassionate. Before we meet Christ, we are numb to the reality of sin in our lives. Everyone else has the same problems that we have, so to ourselves, we appear normal. When we come in contact with Christ, our senses are awakened and we see ourselves in the light of His perfection and holiness – wholeness.
This is painful. To realize that there is something wrong with you where you thought you were just fine, to see how far you have to go to be made well, to feel the pain of sin that was so long masked by the deceptions of the devil. Each and every step that we take toward His all-consuming presence burns away more of our carnal selves, scorches our selfish nerves, and more mortally wounds our heart of flesh. That hurts, but it is a pain that we must embrace if we want to be rid of the disease of sin that so permeates our body.
At first the task seems daunting, and at this point many turn away. Countless numbers decide to turn off their spiritual pain receptors, rather than draw close to their healing, cleansing maker. They run away from the pain, and at the same time run away from its only true relief. The only way to get rid of the pain in our lives is to let Jesus take our sin, the cause of our pain. Of ourselves, you and I can do nothing but run to Jesus and fall at His feet. He has already paid the medical bills to have your sin-cancer removed; all you can do is surrender to Him as your surgeon.
So, what will you do with your pain? Will you fall at His feet and praise Him, or will you, like so many others, run away? Try embracing today’s pain as a sign of the work of healing and awakening that Christ is doing in your life.