Let the healing begin

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For my whole life (so far) I’ve been ridiculously healthy.

In spite of that, as I’ve mentioned before, I suffer from occasional bouts of hypochondria. To me, a headache means a brain tumor, a twinge anywhere means cancer or some rare, as-yet-to-be-identified fatal disease.

As I write this, I’m concerned about leprosy.

Actually, I just learned that I have a case of functional leprosy -- and most likely so do you.

Currently, I’m involved in a weekly women’s Bible study group, and last week we talked about functional leprosy.

It’s not a medical condition, but a spiritual one.

Instead of causing nerve damage, it causes an aggressive attack on the honest self-assessment system, which leads to inauthenticity and a need to project a false picture of oneself.

Think Snapchat filters.

Thanks to technology, you can take a picture of yourself that shows your wrinkles and acne scars and brown age spots, add a filter and -- voila! You’re clear-skinned and dewy-faced with sparkling violet-blue eyes -- with a wreath of flowers on your head that just magically appears.

But putting on a false face is nothing new.

Long before Snapchat or Instagram there lived a military leader, Naaman, captain of the Syrian army. He was a valiant warrior, but he was also a leper, which in those days was a reason to be cast out of society, shunned and despised.

Because leprosy can live dormant for many years, it was possible for people to know they had the disease and yet pretend like they didn’t, and that’s what Naaman did.

Author Priscilla Shirer in her book, “Awaken: 90 Days with the God Who Speaks,” calls this covering up of our pain and struggles and especially our sin, “functional leprosy.”

She says we commonly present a carefully curated and polished exterior, hoping that people will believe that’s how we really are.

We don’t like others to see the real us, because we don’t like the real us.

But once you’ve seen enough Snapchat selfies you quickly realize that it’s all a filter. It’s not real.

And it tends to have the opposite effect than what we long for. People tend to reject inauthenticity. A false perfection is a turn off.

But allowing people to see the real you and the real me is what genuine friendship is all about.

People are drawn to honesty.

Shirer writes, “We conceal these private pains from public knowledge with perfectly composed selfies (on social media) -- and we’re dying in plain sight. For surely, this hidden leprosy will be the death of us.”

Truly, we are as sick as our secrets.

I love what the New Testament writer James says: “Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed” (James 5:16 The Message).

As we tell each other our sins, our sorrows, struggles and imperfections, we find healing for our spiritual leprosy and walk away whole, because God has already forgiven us in Christ.

When we know we are already loved, surprisingly our leprosy goes away.

Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria - I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927  or via email at nkennedy@chronicleonline.com.