Originally published Friday, 07 June 2019.
AUTHOR: COURTNEY ELLIS (COURTNEY’S 2ND BOOK ALMOST HOLY MAMA RELEASED JUNE 3RD! IT’S FUNNY, THEOLOGICALLY RICH, AND AN ENCOURAGEMENT TO ANY MAMA TRYING TO GROW CLOSER TO JESUS!)
I’ve apparently and unfortunately reached the age where previously normal moles go a little haywire.
“That’s going to need to come off,” said the doctor, holding my ear in a gloved hand, peering closely at it. “I’ll schedule you for next week.”
Entering my mid-thirties had been rough on the health front. In the past two years one doctor told me my days in high heels were over, after an old soccer injury turned into osteoarthritis, and another stamped my prenatal chart with the dreaded letters AMA—advanced maternal age—as I prepared to welcome our third baby.
“I don’t mind getting old,” I’d told my husband Daryl, “I just didn’t expect it to start so soon.”
Grateful that this procedure—is there a worse word to have looming over you than that one?—was nearly behind me, as my car pulled into the surgical center’s lot, I felt a pang of unexpected emotion. Not fear or worry or apprehension—though I love surgical procedures about as much as I love hurricanes, diphtheria, and mosquitoes—but nostalgia.
This odd mole in the center of my ear—a place where most people don’t have moles—had been with me all my life. I remembered the first time I learned it was there, when my younger sister, sitting next to me in the back seat of our parents’ car, our legs not yet long enough to reach the floor, stopped in the middle of a sentence.
“I hope we can go to the park when we get there,” she was saying, “the slide is really, really—oh wow, what is that in your ear? Is it a bug?”
Daryl told me he’d first spotted it when we were nineteen years old, studying together in the basement of our freshman dorm, Greek flashcards in hand.
“It was just another unique thing about the girl I was already falling for,” he said.
Yet this previously unobtrusive mole had turned rogue, growing and morphing until I couldn’t ignore it anymore. I began the walk into the doctor’s office, pondering this bizarre, last-minute yearning to hang on to a piece of me that, left attached, could eventually prove fatal. Was I actually going to miss something as useless and potentially troublesome as a mole?
People are funny that way, aren’t we? We cling to bad habits, to destructive practices. We downplay our weaknesses. We try to hide our sin them from the one who offers us the cure.
How often do we choose to live with our pet sins rather than going under the knife of the Great Physician? Sins that, left unchecked, would grow until they, too led to death? My sin might not give me skin cancer, but it certainly threatens the vitality of my spirit, the health of my connection with the Almighty, my ability to love my neighbors and my family faithfully and well.
In second Corinthians, Paul writes of the transformative power of repentance—turning fully from our sin to walk with Jesus in health and wholeness. He writes:
Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. (2 Corinthians 7:10, NIV).
When we finally let God in, admitting our poverty, our need, our sin, we are—in profound and real and life-changing ways—saved.
Yet change—even good change—is hard. It was the great novelist James Baldwin who once said, “People can cry much easier than they can change.”
At the surgical suite, the nurse offered me a gown and a choice of music. She ushered me to my chair and draped my face and neck. The doctor swabbed me with disinfectant and poked me with a numbing needle.
“You are going to be so much happier without this,” he said, laying out an array of terrifying tools, sharp and shiny, just inside my eye line. “You just wait.”
How similar to the words Jesus offers to us when we come to him stuck in sin. “Come to me,” he says in Matthew 11, “all you who are weary and burdened.” Nothing burdens like sin. Nothing exhausts our fragmented souls like wandering from the path of goodness and light, fellowship and peace.
Anne Lamott writes that one of the two best prayers she knows is simply, “Help me, help me, help me.” We need not be eloquent or precise, measured or practiced in our prayers. We need only climb into the surgeon’s chair and say, “Do your work, Jesus.”
After a few minutes, my surgeon was done. He held the offending mole up to the light with tweezers, for our mutual examination.
“Oh ew,” I said.
“Totally ew,” he agreed. “You’re going to like not having this attached to you anymore.”
Amen and amen.
Courtney Ellis is a speaker and author of Uncluttered: Free Your Space, Free Your Schedule, Free Your Soul. She lives in southern California with her three kids, her husband Daryl, and a hidden stash of chocolate that’s always running low. Her new book, Almost Holy Mama: Life-Giving Spiritual Practices for Weary Parents, comes out in June from Rose Publishing. You can read the first chapter for free on her blog. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter