As Phil and I were putting on lotion the other night before bed we were chatting about Vacation Bible School and the story of Elijah that we heard that day.
"You know what story from the Bible I love, Mommy?"
"I like that one about the powerful soldier and the servant girl?! You know that one?"
"Oh, you mean Namaan?" I said, almost in shock.
"Well you are not going to believe this, but that is going to be our Bible story on Wednesday!"
So, at this point I was pretty impressed because I am going to admit I had never even HEARD this story of Namaan until it popped up as one of our stories in VBS. I'm no O.T. Scholar. The 8-year-old has a major scriptural edge on the 35-year-old, apparently.
"What's your favorite part about that story, Phil?" I asked him, fully expecting that I knew the answer.
My mind had instantly gone to Phil's eczema, and I wondered how he might relate to someone like Namaan. Phil is friendly, outgoing, lovable and kind, yet like Namaan he has this skin condition that shows on the outside all of the time. Eczema can be itchy, it can be painful and sometimes just downright annoying. It takes a lot of time and sometimes can cost a lot of money to manage. It can make him feel different. Having a disease that other people can see, especially when you are a little kid, is no fun. I mean, I have thyroid disease and no one would ever know that. Well, except I just told the whole internet, but otherwise. . .you know, from LOOKING at me, you wouldn't know! An "inside" condition can be easy to hide. A skin disease is something different. I was fully expecting Philip to tell me he loved the part about how Namaan was healed as we have prayed for healing for Philip many times before. I wonder if he had imagined himself jumping in the Jordan River like Namaan and coming out with his skin pure as snow.
But, no, not our Philip.
"Mommy, I really liked that servant girl. Do you know Namaan killed her whole family and made her a slave, but she forgave him and helped him know where to go to be healed? Isn't that amazing??"
Um, no, YOU are amazing. But, yes, that's amazing, too. Of course Phil would admire the person who is kind and forgives. Phil is such a bright-side thinker, he even told me the other day that having asthma and allergies is a good thing, because it just means he "just gets extra love and care." We often talk about kiddos who have far worse illnesses, and I know he extends even more compassion and grace to them knowing just a small part of their struggles. He tells me how sometimes he likes to just admire his two "good" fingers, the ring and middle finger on his left hand, since they are the only ones that usually don't have scars. "Sometimes I like to just gaze at them, Mommy." When he raises his hand at school, he told me that he tries to raise his better hand because he's looked around and noticed that no one else in his class looks just like him.
"They all have smooth skin, Mommy."
"I know, buddy, I know. We'll just keep taking good care of your skin and maybe when you are a grownup you will, too."
"So, when I am a grownup, will you still put my lotion on for me? Or maybe my wife will just put my lotion on for me? If not I guess I could come over here every night and you could do it!" This made us both burst into hysterical giggles, imagining him as an adult coming over to my house so I could carefully apply his regimen of eczema creams.
"Well, honey, when you are a little bigger you can probably do this yourself. And maybe your wife can help you with the, you know, hard-to-reach spots." More hysterical laughter with that mental picture.
We laugh about it together, but the mama bear in me worries, too. Worries about the days he will be teased. Feels bad for the discomfort he is in, since if I had one single spot like has all over it would drive me absolutely up the wall. And of course, there's the part that feels guilty I can't fix it.
Nevertheless, I could hardly wait for Phil to get to Bible stories today so we could share one of his favorite stories together. I was especially looking forward to the part where the kids would color on themselves with markers and then come up to the Jordan River to be "healed". I made sure that I was right over by Phil's group, so that I could be the one to wash his hands free of the marker in our little Jordan River made of plastic and cardboard boxes and pitchers of water from the church kitchen. As the kids came forward, I would look at their nametag as I wiped their hands dry.
"Grace, you've been healed. Daniel, you've been healed. Anna, you've been healed." . . .all down the line. I finally got to my oldest little boy. "Philip, you are healed." I said, as I washed the markers off of him, his small hands cupped in mine. Of course, all of his other little spots were left behind as I wiped his palms dry tenderly. He looked at me with his squinty-eyed smile.
"Not yet, Mommy," he said sweetly, "Not yet."
At the end we closed in a little prayer where I asked all of the kids to hold someone in their hearts who needed healing. We prayed that that person would be healed, and expressed our confidence that if God didn't heal them while they were here on earth that they would be healed and whole again and rejoicing when they went to their heavenly home.
I looked over at Phil when the prayer was over and I could see he was a little bit emotional. I gave him a big hug.
I kept turning over the words in my mind that Philip said to me at the river.
He chooses hope.
He chooses the bright side.
He chooses faith.
Keep shining that light, buddy.
I love you.
"Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I." - Isaiah 58: 8, 9a (NIV)