Tuesday, June 08, 2010
30 Days of Smelling -- Burning Human Flesh
Nice title, eh? Sorry about that. But that was the smell that was on my olfactory mind today. Except I did not end up smelling it. Hooray.
Okay, I'm old. I've admitted that before. And as I have aged, my sun-damaged skin has erupted in some interesting formation. I mean, for the most part they are not noticeable to anybody but me, but one on my back that started as small as a pencil dot had transmogrified into something that was growing larger than that US's 1960s-70s "police action" in Vietnam.
And we know how that ended for us.
So at my last trip to my good doctor (who I've been seeing off and on now for almost 30 years), she said she could remove it. Being afraid of needles, knives, and other other medical paraphernalia, I demurred. After all, I rarely see it, not being in the habit of turning my back on myself.
But I am heading to the beach soon. And I thought why should this beautifully sculpted male body (joke!) be marred by this ugly thing on my back?
So I made an appointment to have it removed. Today was the day. As we prepped for the removal (her by getting medical stuff ready and me by taking off my shirt!), we began talking about removal. "Burning it off?" I trembled. "No, we don't do that much anymore," she said.
Phew. Because I remember when I as a pre-teen I was afflicted with a severe case of warts. I had to have them burned off by Dr. George Clouse armed with what my current good doctor (Dr. Ludmilla Trammell) told me was an "electric needle."
"Oh, the smell," she said. "It was awful. It would stink up the whole office. Patients waiting would turn green." No kidding!? I turned green. And I was the patient. And I remember that smell.
In fact, I remember all day today wondering if that's what awaited me.
It didn't. She froze the thing off with liquid nitrogen. No muss, no fuss, no smell.
It still hurts like hell right now, but ... no stink.
As I thought of that smell today, I did think about how it represented a malignant part of me being excised. Something that needed to go. And burning, perhaps, was a good thing to smell in that case. Getting rid of something awful, should it be easy?
That's what our Puritanical (and I mean that in worst possible popular usage of that word -- nothing too close to the original Puritans) American religiosity calls for. Nothing worth having should come too easily. Faith is hard won and the smell of brimstone and hellfire is always in our spiritual nostrils.
There's grace. Grace abundant. As we used to sing (messing up the words), "There's a wildness in God's mercy, like the wildness of the sea."
Well, grace is pretty wild. And it doesn't reek of the stench of brimstone. Or burning flesh. And if that makes it "cheap," then cheap God's grace is.
Guilt. Well that's another matter. It stinks and hurts. And is a self-imposed burden that sometimes I need to carry. To remind me not to be so hateful and judgemental of others as I remember my own faults and failings.
But grace, like liquid nitrogen, attacks that which much be exorcised and does it fairly painlessly. Yes, there is a bit of pain now. But it is minor... a reminder of something that was ugly and harmful is no longer a part of me.
Perhaps I should apply grace more liberally to myself.