Last night at El Crucero one of my older girls got very close to me and began to point to a raw circle on the side of her face.
“Look, Miss Brooke.”
I didn’t know what the circle was. I couldn’t tell if she had scraped herself or gotten burned. The edges of the circle were rimmed with dead skin.
“It’s ringworm,” she laughed, and then pointed to a second circle on the underside of her chin.
Internally, I cringed even as I tried to make concerned conversation: “Oh! Does it hurt? Does it itch? Are you treating it with anything?”
But let me be very transparent with you. Such moments make me want to crawl into my shell and hide. I am a true-blue, bonafide germ freak.
I am that mom who constantly reminds my children not to touch their faces (or door knobs or counter tops or railings) and who practically bathes them in liquid sanitizer whenever we go out and about.
I am that mom who takes 5 minutes covering the public toilet in tissue paper before I let my 6 year old daughter sit on it.
I am that mom who didn’t take my firstborn out into public spaces (including church) until he was well past 3 months old.
I have never believed in the 5-second rule. I avoid doctor’s offices (those epicenters for the plague) unless we are in a might-die-if-we-don’t situation. In an effort to prevent lice, I never let my daughter wear her hair down to school. My stomach lurches at the thought of swimming in a public pool. My children get baths EVERY night and aren’t allowed on their beds until after they are clean. We never wear shoes in the house.
You get the idea, right?
What’s more, I have such an in-born phobia of skin ailments that as a child I couldn’t bear to look at a cartoon character with dots drawn on its skin. And as an adult, I can’t even hear the words lice or scabies without itching for the rest of the day–or longer. (Yep, I am scratching even as I write.)
So, how is it that God has placed me in a ministry that requires me to perpetually grapple with this–my most primal, deep-seated fear?
In the four years since God called me to El Crucero, I have discovered a whole underworld of viruses, fungi and infestations of the skin. I’ve experienced the shock of finding foreign bumps on my son’s skin. We’ve lived the pain and embarrassment and expense of treating an out-of-control case of Mollescum. Fellow volunteers have dealt with lice and scabies. I’ve learned to notice children’s scar-covered legs and arms and to recognize open, oozing spots that look like over-scratched mosquito bites, but aren’t.
It’s as if God decided to enroll me in CDC class entitled “Everything you never, ever, ever wanted to know about contagious skin diseases” . . . and then asked me to use my children as test subjects.
If I had understood all of this at the beginning, I’m not sure I would have said yes.
But now I understand. And I’m still here. And I still hug children. And I still put bandaids on their cuts. And I still sit arm-to-arm with them at tiny tables as we work through homework sheets together. And I still let my sons play street football and soccer on Sunday nights. And I still drive kids around in my car and host parties at my house.
And that is nothing short of a miracle of God. Because in my flesh, I want to avoid contagion and sickness and pain. But somehow, by God’s grace, I stay and I love (even when I cringe). I see the end of myself–the boundaries of my comfort zones, my gut need to self-protect–and somehow I inch across the line.