Years ago, our daughter, Stacia, had her foot crushed by a driver who ran her off the road while crashing into her car. She was a college student at the time. Following some extensive surgery in a Knoxville hospital, she spent the rest of the summer at home. After a few days, I peeked under her bandages and realized that her incisions had developed some serious infection. Since it was pretty late, I suggested that we cover her wounds with Neosporin and get her to the doctor’s office next morning.
As soon as the doc saw her swollen, discolored foot he said, “Go directly to the hospital. Do not pass “GO,” do not collect $200.”
…and I have never lived it down. Now, if someone has a gunshot wound or a severed limb, my family says my advice is to apply Neosporin and go to the doctor tomorrow.
A few days ago, Nahnee and I were enjoying breakfast with the Playl boys at an outside table at Starbucks – first time since the world was shut down by COVID-19 that we were allowed such pleasantries. As we tried to keep up with Grayson and Anderson in a spirited conversation, Anderson questioned me about a minor injury to my arm incurred while doing yard work. Thanks, in part, to various heart meds, my slight scratches usually look worse than they really are.
“Oh, it was nothing serious,” I answered. “Papa just scraped his arm on a tree or rose bush or something.”
Well, of course Nahnee had to continue the legend of Papa and the “oh, it’s not too bad…just put some Neosporin on it, and we’ll get it checked out in the morning” story; so she said, “Ask him if he applied Neosporin to his ‘boo-boo.’”
Playing along, I replied, facetiously, “You know, boys, Neosporin will heal anything. In fact, if they made in an inhalable variety, it would probably cure COVID-19.”
Without missing a beat, Anderson thrust this dagger: “Why don’t you rub some Neosporin on your face, Papa?”
That stung like merthiolate used to burn a scraped knee after a bicycle wreck. Fortunately, that mercury-based antiseptic has been replaced with safer, less painful and more effective disinfectants. Truth is, there is just no cure for ugly.
Scripture refers to a medicinal ointment or balm which was found in the region of Gilead that had powerful healing properties. Jeremiah, the prophet, used Balm of Gilead as a figure of speech to speak of the spiritual healing the nation needed. “Is there no balm in Gilead?” he asked.
The nation of Israel needed relief from the pain that came as a result of sin among the people. Spiritual healing was sought by those people, and the “salve” their soul needed was the Spirit of the Almighty. The same application could be made in our country today. Our people – as a people, all of us – have injured ourselves, with an almost fatal disease. Sin! It manifests itself as hatred, violence, racism, selfishness, and more. And there is no simple cure…unless we seek that Balm of Gilead.
My old college choir sang an African-American spiritual with these lyrics, “There is a Balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole; There is a Balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul. Sometimes I feel discouraged, and think my work’s in vain, but then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again.”
That’s what America needs…not Neosporin but the Balm of Gilead.
In II Chronicle 7:14, God says it like this, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.”
Neither Neosporin nor any other ointment will cure ugly faces or ugly hearts, but turning back to God can bring spiritual healing to a broken people.
Steve Playl, chaplain, columnist, college instructor and former pastor, firstname.lastname@example.org