At the beach last week, I got a really bad sunburn.
My entire back was bright red. The backs of my thighs, too. They both hurt: a soft-but-constant ache that refused to go away. Warm to the touch–for days–and bright, bright red.
It wasn’t fair. I put on sunscreen. SPF 50. I was careful to apply it to my face, my ears, my back, my feet: all the places I’d been burned before. You can’t cut corners when applying sunscreen. You have to get it on every spot of exposed skin.
I thought I did. But 4 hours later, there I was. My back and thighs as red as a lobster.
I don’t get it, I whined. I did everything right. How did this happen? The answer was pretty obvious. I laid in the sun for hours, and I never once bothered to re-apply my sunscreen.
Right now, I’m going through (for lack of a better word) one of “life’s storms.” Things are hard. It sucks. But in the midst of it all, I’ve been praying like crazy. I’ve been reading Scripture with a hunger for it stronger than I’ve ever felt for it before.
I’ve cried out to the God for clarity, for direction, for guidance–and God’s answered. God has given me glimpses of God’s truth, love, and heart for the world. God’s given me encouragement to keep going. Bits of guidance on how I should act. (Put God at the center. Work to understand God’s will, then do it. Stop focusing on me and what I want, and focus more on God.)
This isn’t the first time I’ve gone through a hard season. And it isn’t the first time God has showed up in noticeable ways and helped me through it.
But once the pain is gone, I slip back into what is comfortable. I stop caring about reading Scripture. I forget to pray. I go to church on Sunday, pray at family dinners, and do a Bible study or small group. But my daily interaction with God: praying for guidance, praying for others, reading God’s Word –that goes out the window. It just does.
Christians talk all the time about having a “Relationship with God,” but how often do we treat it like an actual relationship? Do we talk to God as often as we talk to our friends? Do we come to God first when we have a problem? Do we actively try to learn more about Christ, to get to know him better?
Prayer. Reading Scripture. Asking the Lord to show you his will for you, then actually following thorough with it, even when it’s hard. These daily practices are like putting on sunscreen.
When we step outside into the world, we’re at risk of getting burned. Pride, gossip, greed, money, power, anger, desire, revenge, effects that relationships can have on us–life is filled with things we know we should stay away from. But how easy is it to get dragged into them?
We might not even realize that our environment is hurting us. We might think we’re totally unaffected by it. Then we wake up after a nap with a giant sunburn across our entire back.
We didn’t mean to get burned by the world. We were so careful! We prayed for such a long time last week. We went to Bible study. We did everything we were supposed to do. Why did we get burned?
Probably because we forgot to re-apply our sunscreen. Even if we have the very best intentions, our current efforts might not be enough to protect us. Rainy days are rainy days. But don’t go out to nap on the beach and forget to bring along some sunscreen.
Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform anymore to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
Renewing our mind isn’t a one-time thing. It’s not an weekly item to check off our to-do list. It is a daily practice.
The sun is out. It’s sunny, warm and gorgeous. God wants us to be out at the beach: splashing in the waves, running in the sand, and napping in the sunshine. Life is there to be lived. And to be enjoyed.
But don’t go out to the beach without sunscreen. Pray daily. Talk to God often. Ask for the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Read God’s word. Follow God’s teachings.
Re-apply your sunscreen. Don’t be too busy or too lazy or too distracted by life to remember it. Because there is a beautiful, sunny beach to play on. And you don’t want to get burned.