What if that irritating situation is actually helping you?

So there I was in the bath house, coating myself head to toe with sunscreen in anticipation of a beautiful afternoon on the beach, when in walked a mom and her young daughter. They had already spent the morning enjoying the beach, as evidenced by their wet hair and generally sandy condition, and were in the bath house to change back into regular clothing. The daughter grimaced and braced herself, protesting mildly at the sandpaper feel, as mom peeled down the damp swimsuit and tried wiping off some of the sand.

Now, if you’ve ever spent time at the beach, you understand how sand seems to leap onto you and work its way over the surface of every exposed area (even unexposed ones), whether you actually get wet or not! Knowing this, I hit the bath house to apply sunscreen BEFORE stepping onto the beach. I love the sand underfoot, but can’t stand the feel of rubbing lotion into my skin over a fine layer of pulverized quartz and coral.

Upon hearing the exchange between mom and daughter standing next to me, I jokingly stated, “Sand – it’s nature’s gift of exfoliation to us.” She laughed in understanding.

As any woman knows, the term “exfoliation” is slapped on the label of most any beauty product for the skin. Whether it’s through ground up walnut shells, fruit acids, or some fancy thing such as, “mineral particles for microdermabrasion”, the process of exfoliation is touted to slough off the outer layer of dead, crusty, dull, wrinkly skin cells, thereby revealing fresh, new, healthy, plump, vibrant, glowing, younger-looking skin cells underneath… at least that’s what the label promises us.

I’ve noticed that God seems to have a special exfoliation process of his own when it comes to performing a makeover on our heart and mind.

You know those abrasive people we are forced to rub shoulders with on occasion?

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17 (NIV)

How about when circumstances of adversity seem to wear us down?

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4 (NIV)

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12 (NIV)

Or how about our foot-in-mouth, egg-on-the-face, I-just-made-an-idiot-of-myself, vain judgements, or boastful faux pas that provide us with a sort of “arrogance peel”?

Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile”…. 1 Corinthians 3:18-21 (NIV)

 

Exfoliation of the skin can be uncomfortable and irritating, but it really does reveal more beautiful skin. In the same way, if we will cooperate with it, exfoliation of the crusty, dead, less-than-pleasant areas of our perspective or behaviors reveals the true beauty of the character of Christ within us.

 

Pause and reflect for a moment…

(a good moment to break out your journal if you’re so inclined)

Have you been experiencing some exfoliation lately?
Can you identify the “crusty layer” that is being sloughed off?
What new, fresh aspect of you or Christ in you is being revealed?

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