I don’t get zits.
I’m one of those annoying people to whom good genetics and unreasonably expensive skin care products can be credited with generally good skin. Even in high school when most of my friends were bleaching their faces and mothers’ towels with ProActiv, I rarely had a pimple.
But, as the saying goes, all God’s people got problems, and I didn’t escape my fair share of unfortunate genes. I have baggy eyes, crooked pinkies, and bunions.
My name is Rebecca, and I have the skin of a baby and the feet of an 80 year old.
Last week, as though the acne gods had been storing up their adolescent wrath against me and decided to curse me in one giant blow, I got the Zit of My Life. For days I studied this monstrosity in the mirror. Fortunately for all those around me, you couldn’t actually see it. It was a strange lump under my skin, painful, but invisible. I waited a few days and tried everything I could think of to make it go away.
I think my husband and mother got tired of my demands to Seriously, yall, feel this thing again and they suggested I call someone. I didn’t know which someone to call, so I contacted a local salon and described the utter ruin that was my chin.
I scheduled an appointment, swallowed my pride, swore at my new moisturizer, and headed to the salon. A woman named Nancy took me downstairs. I’d been to this salon before for a facial UPSTAIRS. I decided they send the pretty-skinned people upstairs, and the ugly-skinned people downstairs, the way valets park Bentleys and Aston Martins outside a fancy restaurant and take the cheap cars to the parking garage. My Hyundai face and I followed Nancy downstairs, down a long hallway to the very last room in the entire salon. Nancy took one quick look at my face, gave me the technical name of the growth on my chin which sounds far too repulsive to repeat here. She assured me that The Zapper would work. Before she got started, she offered a few name suggestions for my new facial frenemy. Eduardo, a little too steamy for something so unattractive, Herbert a little too dowdy. She said we really needed to find the right balance between European sex-appeal and you know, facing the facts. Luigi fit the bill.
Within seconds she was using some sort of torture device that felt like a mild form of electro-shock therapy. A few minutes later she Luigi with zit cream and sent me on my way. Luckily, I only owed her $15 for the complete crushing of my pride, and soon Luigi and I were on our way home.
I got home and looked in the mirror. Luigi was smaller, but now red. He looked a little unhappy. She shouldn’t have given him an Italian name, after all, Italians are known for their passion.
Years of pride in my good skin came to a crashing halt in one new moisturizer gone wrong, and it gave me an understanding of the great Zit of Life. I remember being fresh out of college, thinking the world was my oyster. I had a gift to offer the world, I was just sure of it. Of course I didn’t know what the gift was, but I. Was. Educated. And not educated like the old-folks who graduated eons ago. I was fresh from the educational womb, covered with the vernix of knowledge.
But here’s the thing about vernix. Eventually the protective barrier sheds and life kicks us straight in the ass. And that is the true beginning of our education. We find ourselves single much later than we thought we would. We find ourselves married, maybe with a child or two, our bank accounts more depleted than our energy. We find ourselves facing unemployment, or infertility, or approximately 120,000 loads of laundry, or addiction, or leaky pipes, or Calvinists, and it all makes us want to crawl back in our beds, curled in the fetal position to pretend it isn’t real. We want to go back to the safe protected world where our zits haven’t yet formed.
There are very few things I can say with utter certainty, but this is one: Top knots are the single worst fashion trend since jelly shoes.
Here’s another: Every single person in the world is in their own way profoundly and utterly screwed up. Grace is the promise that we don’t have to stay that way.
The Gospel of John tells a story of a man whose personal Luigi lasted for 38 years. We don’t know how he became paralyzed, but we find him sitting near the healing waters of the Pool of Bethesda. Of all the people seeking healing in the water, Jesus talks to him. He picks someone who had been paralyzed for thirty-eight years. Imagine the hopelessness this man must have felt.
So Jesus looks at him and asks, Do you want to get well?
Next, an excuse, as we would all give after 38 years of paralyzing sickness. He explains that no one will help him, everyone else is receiving their healing first. They rush to the healing waters, leaving him behind, curled up in his bed, begging for healing but unable to move.
Jesus looks him straight in his hopeless eyes and tells him to get up out of his bed and walk. And so he does.
And so can we.