I suddenly realized I never had the faintest notion what it feels like to be truly ostracized by an entire community and I still don’t.
“He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’ Immediately his leprosy was cleansed.” – Matthew 8:3
I was standing at the counter as the woman apologized to me and refunded my money. “It never really dawned on me before that steam cleaners didn’t produce steam,” she said. Honestly, I tried to be chatty but I was formulating a new plan and feeling…manic.
At the time of this exchange I was 3 days removed from spending the night in a hotel room where I discovered bed bugs. My life since arriving at my parent’s house the next day was spent alternating between throwing things in the washer and the dryer multiple times, throwing perfectly good items away, and searching YouTube to watch all the bed bug porn I could get my hands on. I was convinced they were still with me, invisible and rapidly multiplying.
As my best friend in the world rescinded her invitation to have me visit for fear her house would become infested and as I refused the invitation from another dear friend because I feared for her home, I suddenly realized I never had the faintest notion what it feels like to be truly ostracized by an entire community and I still don’t. That is a reality foreign beyond my attempts at well-meaning, privileged empathy. I read Matthew 8:1-4, newly fascinated by the power of Jesus’ courageous acceptance and touch to restore this person, so long defined by his disease, to full humanity. It is both inspiring and terrifying to know God is calling us to do the same.
God help me to truly know you. Grant me the strength and courage needed to reveal my faith in Christ. Amen.
Shaun Drefahl is Pastor of Bainbridge Community United Church of Christ, in Bainbridge, Ohio.