Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Bleeding faces {guest post by my sister Jean}

I'm so proud and so happy to introduce my sister Jean to you today. One of the dearest people in my life, she is currently studying Biblical Counseling in Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Plymouth, MN. This following piece is her reflection on her acne. Her struggle with her extremely sensitive skin has been fierce and painful for well over a decade. Because of the way Jean pursues life, she is relentlessly theological, even in the way she observes her pimples. She is a woman of great courage.

This picture was taken right before my most recent breakout.

A few days ago, I saw some devastating pictures of Pakistani Christians suffering from a suicide bomb attack (some images are gruesome, here is the link if you want to see them). Hospital beds were crowded with injured patients waiting to be treated. The cement floor was dirty and the walls were covered with black stains. In another picture, there was a man whose shirt was soaked in blood, a little girl in a blood-stained dress, and a woman with a bleeding face.

Suddenly, the one valuable thing I had at that moment was something that had weighed me down recently: my acne-ridden face.

I have a carpeted apartment, a nice bed all to myself, mold-free walls, a stocked up kitchen, no missing limbs, but as to a bleeding face…I do have that. I don’t have one that’s bruised and injured but my skin throbs and bleeds more frequently as of late. My aching face was the one thing I could hold onto to enter into their pain, even if to a much smaller degree. I am suddenly grateful for what I had been despising.

It makes me think about suffering in a new light, another redemptive value about suffering I had never thought of. Perhaps another reason God has for allowing Christians in comfortable nations to suffer—due to the fallenness of this world—is to remind us of our brothers and sisters in other nations who are suffering death and persecution for their faith, not to mention poverty and much harsher living conditions. In other words, God knew I needed His help to consider the pain and suffering of others and that is one reason why he has allowed me to have this very, very light affliction — my acne-prone genes. He knew I would be a much different person, for the worse, without it.

Suffering of any kind also reminds us of yet another bleeding face, that of the “man of sorrows, acquainted with grief,” who had “no form or majesty...and no beauty that we should desire him,” and who “was one from whom men hide their faces” (Isa. 53). If God did not spare his own Son of suffering, and this for our behalf, then we must not believe the lie that our suffering means God does not love us. As Robertson McQuilkin beautifully pondered, "...what always caught and held me was the vision of God's best loved, pinioned in criminal execution in my place. How could someone who loved me that much let anything hurt me without cause?...[T]he heavy heart lifts on the wings of praise."

So, bad acne as cure for the soul? Who would’ve thought? God would, and of course he would, because he is a God who redeems and refuses to waste anything.

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison...”  -2 Cor. 4:16-17


Jean Tsen said...

Correction: I may be a woman of great courage in *some* things but not all things, like mice and house centipedes. And the courage I do have in the few things did not come naturally either but is owing to God's very patient work in my life. But thank you... :D

E! said...

thanks for sharing this, Jean. for being unashamed.

Sharon said...

Dear Jean,

I have been trying to figure out how to respond to this post because I appreciated it on so many levels that I'm concerned that I won't articulate that appreciation adequately. But anyway. :) I am so thankful to get to see how God leads you to be courageous in the face of difficulty. I am thankful for how you looked beyond yourself and posted this (publicly!) so that Christ might be seen and so that His name would be placed high on the banner in your life. Thank you for sharing, and for the beautiful reminder that nothing goes to waste in His hands. What a strengthening truth!! :)

Jean Tsen said...

Sharon -- Thank you so much for your loving and thoughtful words. I, too, am a grateful witness of God's wondrous work of grace in your life. I marvel at how you are able to lay yourself aside and enter into the pain and joys of others in the face of your own difficulty. It rejoices me greatly that my reflection on what I consider a far lighter difficulty could edify and strengthen you! A sign of graciousness and humility as well as victory. I know Whose mark is on you. ;)

And E! -- Guess what? Despite what I messaged you about, I left home without makeup last Sunday. :) It was not a shame-free experience but the Lord made Himself distinctly near to me when my fears came true. It has gotten easier since. He is so kind, comforting me in something so small.

Elaine Pratt said...

I was struck by your sister's description of you: "relentlessly theological"

That is high praise!

And so incredibly Biblical, Christ-like...and winsome.
I want to be like you...I want to be relentlessly theological!!
(The kind that comes from time spent at Jesus'feet.)
Thank you for sharing, Jean!