Monday, March 28, 2016

Don't Waste Your Acne

My school photo in 1994.  I don't have many photos of myself from this period of time, because I was not eager to get my face in front of a camera. 
Dear young person with acne,

I can relate.  I can count on one hand the number of people I've met whose acne was as bad as mine.  For a period of 5 or 6 years I scrubbed my face three times a day.  I still love the scent of witch hazel.  And I still remember the social awkwardness that acne fostered in me.  If I could step back and give advice to the person I was 25 years ago, I would say something like this:

Be friendly, not shy. People are more understanding and sympathetic than you might think.  They aren't thinking about how terrible you look.  So stop thinking about it yourself.  Greet people warmly and be interested in them.  A smile covers a multitude of blemishes. 

Appreciate your friends.  If any people actually start avoiding or mocking you because of your appearance, it shows that they weren't your friends to start with.  Acne filters your fans and weeds out the ones who love you just for the way you look. 

Don't worry about facial scars.  Acne is not going to make you look like an ex-con.  Becoming an ex-con will.  Two weeks of chicken pox when I was 18 left far more scars than 6 years of acne.  (And even the chicken pox scars receded with time.) 

Treat the cause, not the symptoms.  Generally acne is a sign of a more serious hidden imbalance.  Drugging yourself with tetracycline for 5 years may prevent acne but allow the underlying cause to worsen.  After 6 years of acne, I learned that the acne on my face was caused by eating soy, and the acne on my shoulders, by eating gluten.  I eliminated those from my diet, and the acne went away.  (I also learned that flax oil, 1 Tbsp per day, was very helpful.) 

Think long term.  This too shall pass.  If you don't follow Jesus, you will go to hell, in which case your body will be destroyed by something far more terrible than acne.  If you turn from your sin and trust in Jesus, you will go to live with Him, in which case you will get a new, perfect body (and you'll be more interested in His scars than in yours).

Worship Christ, who relinquished beauty - for sinners like you. 

Jesus gave up beauty when He came to earth:
He has no form or majesty
That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.  
(Isaiah 53:2, NASB)
And even more when he was crucified:
His appearance was marred more than any man
And His form more than the sons of men.
(Isaiah 52:14, NASB)
I discovered these verses while I still had acne.  It amazed me, and still does, that Jesus chose to come in a wrapper that was not appealing.  And He did it for evildoers like me.

I'm indebted to John Piper's "Don't Waste Your Cancer" for the title of this post. 

Friday, March 18, 2016

Antonin Scalia: So Close, and Yet So Far

I thank Jesus for the political influence of Antonin Scalia.  Not that I agreed with all his rulings, but for the most part, he did his job well, a sort of lone prophet crying out against a political world gone mad.

A friend gave me a copy of the eulogy delivered by Justice Scalia's son Paul, who is a Roman Catholic priest.  For me it is heart-wrenching.

On the one hand, there are some incredibly beautiful thoughts, such as these near the beginning:
We are gathered here because of one man. A man known personally to many of us, known only by reputation to even more. A man loved by many, scorned by others. A man known for great controversy, and for great compassion. That man, of course, is Jesus of Nazareth.
It is He whom we proclaim. Jesus Christ, son of the father, born of the Virgin Mary, crucified, buried, risen, seated at the right hand of the Father. It is because of him. because of his life, death and resurrection that we do not mourn as those who have no hope, but in confidence we commend Antonin Scalia to the mercy of God.
Those words are among the best I have ever heard at a funeral.  I hope someone says that at mine!

Or these, a quote by Paul from something Antonin had written:
 "Even when the deceased was an admirable person, indeed especially when the deceased was an admirable person, praise for his virtues can cause us to forget that we are praying for and giving thanks for God's inexplicable mercy to a sinner."
Or these, toward the end:
Finally we look to Jesus forever, into eternity. Or better, we consider our own place in eternity and whether it will be with the Lord. Even as we pray for Dad to enter swiftly into eternal glory, we should be mindful of ourselves. Every funeral reminds us of just how thin the veil is between this world and the next, between time and eternity, between the opportunity for conversion and the moment of judgment.
So we cannot depart here unchanged. It makes no sense to celebrate God's goodness and mercy to Dad if we are not attentive and responsive to those realities in our own lives. We must allow this encounter with eternity to change us, to turn us from sin and towards the Lord.
But then sprinkled heavily throughout the eulogy there are also tragic evidences of the Roman Catholic Church's departures from Scripture.  In particular, the belief in purgatory, and praying for the dead and indulgences as a way of leaving purgatory more quickly.
Thank you also for allowing us to have this parish funeral Mass here in this basilica dedicated to Our Lady. What a great privilege and consolation that we were able to bring our father through the holy doors and for him gain the indulgence promised to those who enter in faith....
He was a practicing Catholic, "practicingin the sense that he hadn't perfected it yet. Or rather, Christ was not yet perfected in him. And only those in whom Christ is brought to perfection can enter heaven. We are here, then, to lend our prayers to that perfecting, to that final work of God's grace, in freeing Dad from every encumbrance of sin....
We continue to show affection for him and do good for him by praying for him: That all stain of sin be washed away, that all wounds be healed, that he be purified of all that is not Christ. That he rest in peace.
This, in turn, is rooted in a view that Christ's atonement on the cross was insufficient, and required the additional aid of participation in the sacraments:
Further, we give thanks that Jesus brought him to new life in baptism, nourished him with the Eucharist, and healed him in the confessional.... He trusted the power of her sacraments as the means of salvation as Christ working within him for his salvation.
This is heartwrenching to me because all of this indicates that at the end of the day and the end of his life, Antonin believed he would go to purgatory, not heaven; that additional perfection and purification would be necessary in his life before he could enter Christ's presence.  Apparently he did not claim to have the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith (Philippians 3:9).  He could have gotten it with no need for suffering in purgatory, no need for sacraments, no need for people to pray for his departed soul.   Like the tax collector who beat his chest and simply cried, "God be merciful to me, the sinner!" (Luke 18:9-14) Antonin Scalia could have gone home declared righteous by God.