As a child I suffered from a skin condition called acute eczema. Maybe it's not accurate to say that I suffered from it; it was more like torture. It was acute indeed.
Apparently it was a nervous related disease. My family used to say I was highly strung. I'm not sure that was a compliment. Certainly with eczema which was largely concentrated on my legs from my knees to my ankles, I had reason to be stressed out. The itch was unbearable at times and when you itch that badly only one thing brings immediate relief you scratch it. But I scratched so hard because it itched so much that it resulted in open sores. And the sores wept. Continually. My socks used to stick to my legs all the time. Even now as I think of the agony I cringe. But
there was one thing worse than the itch and worse than the "Sticky Sock Syndrome" (I know, it's gross): the Feather.
Now I don't know if this was a remedy recommended by a doctor or if it was an old wives' tale. If it was the former I would like to meet the doctor and punch him on the nose. If it was the latter, I would find the old wife who started the story and give her a piece of my mind. The remedy, if we can call it that, was to dip a feather in methylated spirits and gently apply it to the affected or infected area.
Thinking back on it, I don't know if the feather was sterilized. I suspect not. In fact I dread to think where they got it from. Can you imagine walking into a chemist and asking for a feather? But what I do know is how sore it was. Forget falling into a field of nettles (I had that experience too, and, no, the docken leaves weren't a great comfort); forget getting stung in the neck by a wasp. The Feather surpassed them all.
The thing is, it was actually effective. Yes I had to be held down by my dad and other relatives; yes I struggled with all the might a six year old can muster to resist the Feather; no I didn't believe them when they told me, "It's alright". But the Feather did kill the itch, for a while anyway. It probably also disinfected the sores too, but oh how it stung in the process.
Sometimes extreme conditions require extreme measures. Surgeons will amputate a leg to stop gangrene spreading throughout the rest of the body. At the end of the day, a life is more important than a limb.
Jesus also talked about extreme measures. He talked about cutting your hand off and gouging out your eye if they were causing you to sin.
The reason we think these extreme measures are way over the top today is that we are unaware of the gravity and the infectious and deadly nature of sin.
Think of King David. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong thoughts about the wrong person. The horror of sin is that we can always rationalize it. We can justify ourselves. We can blame God. We will do everything but take responsibility for our own sin. That's how dangerous it is.
Now before you go in to the kitchen and reach for a bread knife, let me remind you about how Jesus taught. He didn't have blackboards, whiteboards, flipcharts or any of our modern teaching aids. So He did what any good teacher would do. He used what He had available.
So Jesus told stories, used contemporary settings and everyday experiences to get His message across. He also used extremely graphic images very effectively. So when He talked about dismembering yourself in order to combat sin in your life, His message hit home with penetrating clarity: Don't mess with sin. Don't entertain it. Don't be deceived into thinking, "It's not a problem." Be radical. Be real. Be serious about sin in your own life. It can destroy you but it can also seep into a fellowship and destroy others too. It can have devastating consequences.
We have lost the art of confessing our sins in today's church and with it we have lost the healing and release that confession can bring. Confession comes from admission of sin and results in repentance and restoration. Confession and repentance kills the itch and disinfects the soul.
Maybe we need to be touched by the Feather of the Word and cleansed by the Spirit. Maybe we need to apply extreme measures to sin in our lives and come before the Father for healing. Like the Psalmist yes, that Psalmist said, "Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit in me." It will hurt so much, but in the end, it's worth it.
Long-time writer, life-time learner and happily married for nearly twenty-seven years. I am inspired by life and my bottom-line is faith that works. Live in Northern Ireland and engaged in church work full-time.