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August 4, 2015

Sunblock and Aloe Vera

SUNBURNS! Just saying that word can bring up memories – usually painful memories – memories of blisters, peeling skin, and sticking to sheets… memories of getting a hug or a slap on the back by an unknowing friend who then watches you cringe in pain and do a crazy dance after said hug or slap. Being raised in Oklahoma – where it is nothing for temps to reach well over 100 for weeks at a time – I have several sunburn stories…  but for today, I’m going to take you with me to Hawaii! (not literally, although that would be fun too, assuming I like you)

So – Summer of 2003 – I had an incredible opportunity to go to Hawaii with some friends of mine for about 5 days. I had never been, so to say I was excited is an understatement. I had my golf clubs and my swimsuit (and probably a few other unimportant things I can’t remember right now). The first day we got there we went to the beach to hang out for a bit. We didn’t plan to be there that long… I put on my swimsuit – everyone else was applying sunscreen – I asked for a little bit as well, but because we weren’t going to be there very long, I didn’t really focus on the application. It was basically, “Hey, can you put a little bit of that in my hand?” Then I just kind of rubbed it into a few areas on my chest, shoulders, and what I could reach of my back.

We decided to swim quite a ways out into the ocean on some boogie boards, and then float and relax. It was fun. The key word being WAS. About 4 hours later we returned to our rooms to get ready for golf. Everything still seemed to be ok at this point. I realized that I might’ve gotten a bit red, but no big deal… I mean hey, I’m from Oklahoma, I’m in the sun quite a bit (granted, usually with my shirt on) – but I’ll be fine….

By the back 9 (for you non-golfers, that means the 2nd half of the round) my back was feeling a bit uncomfortable… it was an itching/burning sensation… I was starting to realize maybe I got a bit more sun than I realized. By the time we got back to the room, I was in pain. I took my shirt off and my friends began to giggle… not just because my back was BRIGHT RED, but because there were finger marks and lines where I had half-way attempted to apply the sunscreen. I immediately went down to the gift shop and bought heaven in a bottle (no, not liquor… ALOE VERA). The rest of the trip, this giant sized bottle of Aloe Vera was my best friend – we went everywhere together.

I’m the kind of guy who likes to take scripture seriously – so when I experience pain, or difficult (or even strange) circumstances, I always try to figure out how to “Count it all joy when I fall into various trials and temptations” (James 1:2) or find solace in the fact that “All things work together for good” (Romans 8:28) or even find a way to “Give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). With that said – here is what the Lord dropped in my heart about my Hawaiian Sunburn.

  •    This sunburn could’ve been easily prevented. All it would’ve taken is the simple application of sunblock prior to exposing myself to the elements. After the sunburn happened, I couldn’t undo it. I felt dumb and experienced regret – but no matter how dumb I felt or regretful I was – I was still in pain.
  •    Aloe Vera helped relieve the pain and discomfort. It moisturized my skin and helped it heal and return to normal – but it didn’t happen overnight.
  •    I will never go shirtless in the tropical sun without sunblock again. My past experience was a learning moment which shapes and influences my decisions, even to this day. (in other words, I actually learned something from my pain)

SO – how does this translate into real life. I believe that the Word of God and our relationship with God, by design, is preventative in nature. In other words – remaining close to God, seeking His heart, and then doing our best to follow His lead, will prevent many of the hurts and pains we can easily experience in this lifetime. Too many times we just go about life, doing things on our own, then we experience something painful and/or uncomfortable and come running to God and seek Him like never before…. Now, this is not to say we will never experience pain and heartache – because we live in a messed up world. I do believe with all my heart, however, that a lot of the pain we experience (just like my sunburn) is preventable.

When we do experience pain and heartache – God’s presence and power are there to bring soothing relief (just like the Aloe Vera). He will nurse us back to health. He will help us heal. He will bring restoration. He will ease the pain – EVEN the pain we could’ve avoided. God is not an “I told you so” kind of God… (even if the people around us are).

There can be a purpose to our pain. Pain, as defined by Webster, is “the physical feeling caused by disease, injury, or something that hurts the body; mental or emotional suffering; sadness caused by some emotional or mental problem.” Pain lets us know something is wrong! If I never experienced pain, I would probably have died (literally) long ago. Whether it was sticking my hand on a burner, cutting myself with a pocket knife, or something much more serious… pain is an indicator of a bigger problem. Pain motivates us to take action and teaches us that certain things and actions cause pain.

So my simple thoughts for the day….

  •     When you allow God to be your sunblock, you don’t need Him to be your aloe vera quite as often.
  •     Don’t let shame and embarrassment keep us from allowing God to be our aloe vera, even when we did something stupid.
  •     Learn, learn, learn – and after you’ve done that, learn some more. Always look for God to teach you something about Him and about you each and every day – you’ll be surprised how much He has to say…

May God continue to be your treasure (Matthew 13:44-46)

Written by Pastor Glenn Quirk