Friday, September 28, 2012

A Pox Upon You. . .

Chickenpox is a viral infection common among children, particularly those under age 12.  

Chickenpox cont'd
 (Photo credit: Jacob Johan)
When a child has chickenpox they develop, on average, 250 to 500 small, itchy, fluid-filled blisters over red spots on the skin.   Most pox will not leave scars unless they become infected with bacteria from scratching. Usually the child recovers without complications. It used to be one of the classic childhood diseases. However, it has become much less common since the introduction of the chickenpox vaccine.

Once a child has had chickenpox, as have most of the adults of my age who lived before the time of the chickenpox vaccine, the virus usually remains dormant, or asleep, in the body for a lifetime.  About 1 in 10 adults will experience the virus emerge, for some unknown reason but usually during a period of stress, as shingles.

While it usually isn't a life-threatening condition, shingles can be very painful. Shingles can occur anywhere on your body,  but it most often appears as a single stripe of blisters that wraps around either the left or the right side of your torso.  It can also appear on your face, I know because that's where my shingles appeared, on the left side of my nose and face.

Ask anyone who has had shingles and they won't talk about the rash.  They won't talk about the blisters.  They will talk about the pain.  For some unfortunate individuals the pain continues past the rash.   Postherpetic neuralgia occurs when the nerves have been damaged after an outbreak of shingles.  The pain can last for months or years.

Bitterness is like chickenpox.  When we first allow bitterness to harbor in our hearts, it doesn't seem too damaging.  It's a little thing, a little anger at that person, a little desire for vengeance.  We may even forget it is there, but it is and it is growing. It takes root, just like the herpes zoster virus.  It isn't gone just because the rash has cleared up.

Then later we realize -- or maybe we don't but others do-- the bitterness has begun to creep into all aspects of our lives.  We aren't just bitter about that one thing, but now it is so easy to be bitter about almost everything.  The pain of anger, bitterness and hatred has taken over.

It is no wonder the Apostle Paul gave us this command:

 "Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:   And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you,"  (Ephesians 4:31,32).

He knew that even the tiniest amount of bitterness and wrath would seethe and grow in our hearts until it became a consuming force.  Paul said "let ALL bitterness" I suppose because he meant ALL.  We should not harbor ANY bitterness in our hearts toward others.

Let us take this command to heart and through the grace of God choose to forgive those in our lives based not on their merit, not on our merit, but based solely on the grace and mercy which has been shown to us, "even as God for Christ's sake" hath forgiven us.

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