It all started with a tingle, or maybe it was more of an itch…  Regardless, what seemed to be a small inconvenience escalated into a full blown cold sore before the alarm rang the next morning.  My past experience with cold sores has been lengthy, and while some are more inconspicuous than others, this particular one decided to rear its ugly head right on the end of my nose.  My reflection in the mirror seemed a closer resemblance to Nanny McPhee or the Wicked Witch of the North and there was nothing I could do about it.

While I went about my daily activities, few people dared to comment on my new facial feature.  It wasn’t that they couldn’t see it or didn’t notice.  I observed many people making “contact” with my nose instead of my eyes.  And as uncomfortable as I was with my new look, it seemed to make the people I encountered even more uncomfortable.  Oh, there were a few people that voiced concern, some made jokes, while others gave a look of pity, but the vast majority chose to squirm and not say anything.  I began to wonder if it was any less awkward to remain silent or to say, “Hey, what’s up with your nose”.

Which leads me to consider other blemishes in our life…  Some imperfections are hidden quite well, but some are as plain as the nose on our face.  People are quick to share concern over normal afflictions like cancer or broken bones or surgeries.  But what about when someone loses a job because of their own misconduct, or a marriage is on the brink of divorce, or a cloud of depression hangs overhead, or someone’s name appears in the local newspaper, or a child chooses an unacceptable path.  Is it easier to be silent and look away, to make light of or speak condemnation, or to pick up the phone and say, “I heard of your struggles and I just want you to know that I am praying for you”?  As I update the Prayer Line each day with prayer requests for common hardships, I wonder how many people would covet the prayers of the people for their less accepted blights.

Colossians 3:12-14 commands us “As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience… Bear with each other and forgive each other… and over all these virtues put on love…”  Isn’t that what we all want—just to be covered in a garment of love; to be valued and know that someone cares.  Not to be condemned or made fun of or avoided, but to be embraced with kindness and compassion.

Although it has meant extra work on my desk, I am excited about the new Care Shepherd Ministry.  I am excited for those couples or individuals that God has called to care and love.  I am excited to hear their testimonies of how God has used them.  But, just because God has called 24 people that we have given a title as Care Shepherd doesn’t mean that the rest of us are off the hook or have dodged a bullet in the election process.  We are ALL called to share one anothers burdens and to love one another as He has loved us.

So, the next time you find yourself in an uncomfortable encounter, remember that the other person is probably just as uncomfortable as you are.  Instead of avoiding the matter, or passing judgment, or criticizing, try offering a morsel of concern or a word of encouragement; it might be just what they needed to hear.  But no matter what you say, do so in love, lest you be the one trying to cover up a blemish next week.