For many college students, Christmas is a season of detoxing from all the virulent nastiness of a busy, stressful semester. With sixteen weeks of never-ending study completed culminating in a hellish finals week, we collapse in weary heaps in our childhood beds, finished with finals but nevertheless feeling grimy and covered in grit. We need cleansing.
(And don’t get me wrong. I loved this semester. I loved my classes. But let’s be real – the grind wears on you after sixteen weeks!)
During finals week, a moment of hope appeared when a text message from mom interrupted my studies. Picture me at my end-of-year finest: sweatpants, ponytail, smelling less than lovely, eyes glassy and swollen, hair frizzled, guzzling coffee and inhaling chocolate-covered pretzels in an effort to boost my mental efforts with sugar. (Yikes.)
My mother interrupted my frantic research of 18th-century indigenous rebellions in Peru to deliver wonderful news. She announced that she had scheduled me a spa evening for when I arrived home.
A facial! Glory hallelujah – I touched the rough, tired skin of my countenance and felt it brighten at the thought of a clay mask. Dear, dear mother! Darling woman! It was all I could do not to break down and sob, throw my books out the window, and twirl around in thanksgiving.
Last night a lovely lady at the salon lathered my cheeks, my nose, my forehead in bubbles. She painted me with cleansers and spritzed me with toners. When she massaged my hands with citrus oil, I thought I had died and ascended to the throne of God. When she finished, I felt my skin once again. Smooth, tight, clean.
It is good to be clean.
In a similar manner, I’m using this Christmas break to cleanse the toxins not just from my skin, but from my whole self. Trying to get back to a healthy sleep schedule (trying to forget the nights where I only slept three hours and woke up with a smashing headache, then hit the books again). Trying to drink less caffeine and more water (trying to get a little space from coffee. This is hard!). Trying to breathe deep and divorce myself from the perpetual worries and stresses of school which followed me around like pack mules for sixteen weeks. Trying to separate my brain from the academic notion of success: constant striving.
I’m interested in the way cleansing – physical, moral, of guilt, of conscience, of the toxins that build up a deep grime in our lives – is a type of healing. Spa experiences do heal us, in a way. The gentle, caring touch of my esthetician was as healing to my spirit as her products were healing to my skin.
This morning I read an interesting account of a divine healing, and shall we say, spa treatment. Notice the methods used:
A deaf man with a speech impediment was brought to [Jesus], and the people begged Jesus to lay his hands on the man to heal him. Jesus led him away from the crowd so they could be alone. He put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then, spitting on his own fingers, he touched the man’s tongue. Looking up to heaven, he signed and said, “Ephphatha,” which means, “Be opened!” Instantly the man could hear perfectly, and his tongue was freed so he could speak plainly!
(I’m enjoying the idea in my head of estheticians everywhere speaking to stubborn pores following the example of Jesus: “BE OPENED!”)
Earlier in Mark (this is from Mark 7), the writer says “all who touched him were healed,” meaning Jesus. And right before this passage, Jesus is teaching the pharisees about the utter uselessness of their hand-cleaning rituals. The pharisees were obsessed with hand washing, but less concerned about truly obeying God’s commands. They thought they could cleanse themselves. Jesus tells them outward things do not defile them – it’s things that come from within their hearts. Things like greed, immorality, theft, wickedness, deceit, evil thoughts, pride, foolishness.
I’m struck by the way Jesus not only points out the grimy insides of the pharisees, but then he turns around and casts out a demon (Mark 7:24-30), and then in our spa passage, completely heals the deaf man through a sort of cleansing ritual.
The New Testament is FULL of references to cleansing and healing. People plead to be cleansed. People pray to be made pure from mistakes they’ve made and guilty consciences. In response, God promises cleansing and healing. And one thing is very clear: whatever people think will cleanse them, they are powerless until the savior shows up with his holy blood, shed to save the world. In his purity and his righteousness, Jesus does the cleansing.
Jesus comes in and does the whole detoxing regimin – because we can’t. Call him our esthetician.
Do you need a divine facial? You and me both.
This Christmas season, I’m joining the Psalmist in his prayer for God to “cleanse me from these hidden faults.”
And then I’m rejoicing in the words of 1 John 1:7: “if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his son, cleanses us from all sin.”
Let’s accept that cleansing. There’s no better feeling in the world.