By Alex Florez
What do you picture when you hear the words poison ivy? Likely, you imagine some red spots and someone gritting their teeth as they try not to scratch the implacable itch. Over the years, I’ve had a few brushes with poison ivy, and they’ve all been pretty gruesome. But there is one experience that tops them all. I woke up one summer morning following a full day of yard work to discover the beginning of a rash that had all the tell-tale signs of a poison ivy encounter. Before long, both arms, both hands, and a few spots on my rib cage were covered in what looked more like raw ground beef than human skin. Boils the size of ping pong balls blossomed on my hands, and I was utterly miserable for the next two weeks. I spent hours soaking in Epsom salt baths; I tried every home remedy the internet offered; I felt a species of self-pity that I would be embarrassed to recount in detail. Naturally, I visited my doctor and a dermatologist. Both of them, after taking one look at my body, groaned in disbelief and asserted that they had never seen a case that bad in one of their own patients.
Reading the protocol for dealing with skin affliction offered in Leviticus 13 and 14, I am convinced I would have been deemed ceremonially unclean by the attending priest. I looked like a straight-up swamp monster, and even my children were uncomfortable looking at me. Certainly, if the Bible’s perspective on a dermal malady is that it renders the sufferer unfit to be in the presence of the rest of their community—much less in the presence of their holy God—then I can only surmise that I would have been relegated to the position of an outcast under Levitical law.
If this is true about the outward appearance of my flesh in the wake of my contact with poison ivy, how much more unfit would I be if the invisible uncleanness of my life were up for discussion? With a lifetime pock-marked by moments of lust, wrath, gossip, covetousness, greed, pride, and selfishness, I would certainly be cast out of the presence of my loved ones and my God if not for the goodness of Jesus Christ.
In recognition of my helpless estate affected by the sin in my life, I cry out, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean” (Luke 5:12). I have full confidence that when Jesus regards my powerlessness as I humble myself before Him, He is willing to make me clean and, with a word, to deliver me from my afflictions—both the kind the world can see and, most importantly, the kind that are only visible to me and Jesus, my Savior, my healer, and my friend.