The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Monday, May 21, 2012

Lessons from Sunburns



So, as many of you know by now, I got sunburnt on Thursday. I was at the beach with a bunch of friends swimming in the ocean, playing frisbee, and hanging out. I had no intention initially of swimming and figured I'd just keep my tank top on the whole time to avoid the sun, but a couple of friends decided to toss me into the ocean. At that point I decided taking the tank top off and swimming would be a good idea. I was having so much fun that I didn't really even think about applying sunscreen. I would have had to dry off (and I didn't bring a towel), then apply sunscreen, then wait twenty minutes for it to soak in, and then start playing again.

After about an hour or so in the ocean I dried off a bit with a towel that someone graciously lent me and put my tank top back on. I sloppily applied some sunscreen on my shoulders, thinking that would suffice, but within about ten minutes we started a game of ultimate frisbee, and I couldn't really resist that and didn't wait for the sunscreen to soak in properly. Not to mention the fact that my shoulders were already quite red from the hour or so they were exposed without sunblock, and I am naturally as white as the Michelin man.

I came home and felt okay, but my shoulders were starting to prickle. By the evening they were on fire, and aloe vera, which I usually pass on even when I have sunburn, became my best friend. I remember lying in bed and maneuvering gingerly, trying to lay in such a way as to not press down too much on my shoulders. Laying on my stomach ended up being the only real solution, but that puts a crick in my neck, so for every two hours or so I would wake up with a burning back and aching neck. At one point I buried my face into my pillow and actually thanked God for His grace and mercy. I realized that hell must be really hot if this much pain could be caused from simple sunburn, and that the amount of daily suffering I could be enduring is much greater than what I usually do.

That is a seemingly nonsensical thing to think of, but it's what came to mind. In the past, particularly before I was a Calvinist and understood God's sovereignty over all things, especially suffering, I would have been sulking the whole time and angry with myself for being so stupid. Now, I am thanking God for His grace while remaining angry at my insolence. I could have put on a t-shirt instead of the tank top, and that would have prevented me from the sun poisoning and blistering that I now have on my shoulders, but instead I foolishly thought the damage had already been done and that it wouldn't have really made much of a difference either way.

While lying in agony the past few days, I've had a lot of time to think about why I have been lying in agony. So I started thinking about how in the new heavens and new earth, this would never happen. We can be out in the bright light all day, buck naked if we wish (I presume on the naked part) and bask in the radiance of, not the sun, but God's glory forever. And He will never burn us, but provide perfect warmth and comfort.

So my sin was not applying sunscreen and rightly recognizing the effects the Fall of man has had on the Creation. It's not as if the sun is bad or that we were meant to hide in shadows, but rather this is a portrait of the sad state that we have plunged ourselves into.



My mom always, always, always tells me to wear sunscreen. But I didn't listen very well this time. It is feasible that I could even develop cancer at some point from not putting any on, and die. All because of a few moments of fun in the sun. So, besides being a sinner worthy of hell in the first place, I deserved this sunburn because I didn't listen to the council of my parents and the council of common sense for that matter. I deserve the discomfort, and I do not deserve any pity. Aloe vera is a medium of God's grace and mercy, as well as cool waters in showers and swimming pools. These are a few things many people do not have much access to, not to mention things like, you know, clean water and food. No biggie. In the grand scheme I'll take a little sunburn over slowly starving to death over a day to day basis not because of something I have done but because I was born into a place where food and water isn't readily available due to some effect of this fallen world.

I guess my point is I want to declare how stupid I was over something that seemed so small at the time yet has caused so much pain over an extended period of time. This is the way it works. The fruit looks tantalizing and we take a bite, forgetting the dire affects that taking this fruit is cosmic treason and declaring war on God. And sunburn is a reminder of that. I don't listen to God's warnings. The sun hurts because I am fallen, fragile, and will be dead in the blink of an eye in the light of all history. I sacrifice days of pain for a few hours of pleasure. And I can tell you, if I had a re-do, I'd take it.

Perhaps there are further points to make, like how one can become addicted to suntanning and actually dishonor the temple of God by getting sunburnt frequently and turning their flesh to a nasty looking leather by the time they are 40. Or maybe I can make an analogy to how this is like the alcoholic who forgets about the hangover that takes the whole day for just a few hours that he won't even remember when he wakes up. Or maybe that is a stretch. All I know is, I deserve the pain. I can't fully explain it, but there's something devious in me that thinks I can get away with stuff like not using suntan lotion, or at least to irrationally think that the burn will not be that bad, or I will just deal with whatever pain results from this when it comes. I've heard people say to never sacrifice the eternal on the altar of the immediate. I guess I did something like that. And we do it all the time.

So every sunburn has a story, every pain or injury or discomfort has a cause, and more often than not, that cause is itself a sin. Not always- sometimes you are minding your own business and someone t-bones your car. And other times, you bump your head on the corner because you were being impatient. What we deserve is wrath forever, pain that makes you bonkers- like when they drilled through my jawbone to remove my wisdom teeth and had to cut the teeth into three pieces to pry them out. But what God's people get instead is but a taste of what we deserved, to produce patience and perseverance, then a better character, which ultimately looks toward hope. Hope in what? Hope in God, in His grace and mercy and love and the redemption of our bodies and all this corrupted creation which groans together with birth pangs until now. I am thankful to God that He has changed my heart to make things like serious sunburn lead to praise for His grace and mercy- though I still do complain and grumble at times in my heart- rather than sorrow, despair, and hopelessness. Though I cannot see how I will be in glory- free from pain and sorrow and sin- the Spirit testifies to me that I will attain this status because I am a son of God. And this is exactly what Paul tells us in Romans, is it not? Anyways, that's what my sunburn has been leading me to think about, and I think God for even the sunburn.



Romans 5: Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have[a] peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. 24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.



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