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My Gracious Dermatitis (Grace-a-titis)

I’m not one who’s known to shy away from the humor in gross bodily functions, so if descriptions of my skin condition will leave your stomach churning and gag reflexes spasming, this post may be one to skip.

Recently, I was examined by a new dermatologist, who, I might add, seemed rather uninterested in me and spoke to the nurses as if I were not in the room which, as a patient, is always rather unsettling. At one point, he looked at the monstrous birthmark on my back and I saw him furrow his brow and allow the corners of his lips to curl upward, not even trying to hide his surprise and glee at finding something unusual to break the monotony of his acne-scars-and-stretch-marks day. He called the nurse over for a look, asking her “you ever seen anything like that?” to which she replied a mortifying “wow…no I haven’t.” The small, tile, examination room then echoed with the unpleasantly wet sound of a flesh-on-flesh thwack as my palm connected with my blushing forehead.

The rest of the appointment went about that well and I could write pages about his atrocious bedside manner, but that’s a different story. He diagnosed me with seborrheic dermatitis—as with other medical conditions, I urge you away from a Google image search. It turns out that I have too much yeast on my face skin and, if I don’t wash my face enough, splotches of my skin slowly turn red then swell and begin scaling over with little white patches. I’m particularly prone to find it under my beard, giving me a delightful dusting of beard dandruff (aka beardruff) that has forced some of my favorite black sweaters into storage. Unfortunately, it doesn’t just stay under the hair, and a blotch has recently shown up right in the middle of my big nose for all to see. Sometimes my wife hums the tune to “Rudolph” under her breath (which really isn’t helping my self-esteem, babe).

It’s gross, it’s frustrating, and it’s also very telling. See, when I’m struggling with an episode of depression, one of the first things to go is any semblance of a regular hygiene habit. This, of course, means I wash my face less often encouraging my seborrheic friend to rear his ugly head so that I begin to resemble a newborn Komodo dragon.

But—and this is where it becomes a blog post rather than a poor attempt at confessional non-fiction humor—strangely, God has used it to show His grace and kindness to me.

God has taken away my ability to hide. He doesn’t let me sit safely behind a sterile, plastered-on smile while my brain and emotions are actually as mixed up and flavorless as those KFC dinner buckets (you know…the ones with chicken, mashed potatoes, and something that used to be corn all smashed and stirred into a chunky sludge that vaguely resembles a dog’s kibble-puke? I hate KFC).

God doesn’t want His Church to be made up of pretenders. He’s put a neon sign on my face that lights up when I’m not doing well.

And if I can push this bizarre post even further, my dermatitis has even become a sort of small-scale Gospel picture to me. When I feel depressed, I want to rebel and collapse into myself by closing the curtains, diving into a depressing movie, and forgetting everyone. God repeatedly seeks me out when I want my own way. He finds me in my dank cave and lovingly leads me outside—sometimes more of a tough love drag by the ear while I kick and scream—into the sunlight to dry off and begin functioning in community as He designed me to.

What my flesh craves is not what God destined me for, nor what He knows is best for me. He has not only rescued me from my sin, but He continues to save me from myself, and He’s slowly forming me into a functioning gear in the cosmic machine He is rebuilding.

The longer I live, the more I realize that I’m a spiritual infant who doesn’t know what’s good for me. God, being the loving Father He is, straps me into my highchair, lovingly tucks my flailing arms against my side, wipes off the soggy Cheerios that inexplicably stick to my cheeks, and administers the medicine that I would never take on my own but desperately need to live. He’s constantly breaking and re-breaking through my pigheaded, bricked-up heart.

The call for everyone is that we need Him every hour, every minute. He is our vine, apart from whom we’re dead. And even when we run from Him, He runs after us. Hopefully you, my friend, are able to learn this without the help of seborrheic dermatitis.

And the next time you see my face lit up and scaled over like a Crested Gecko Christmas tree, try not to gawk. Know it’s been a rough week. Just give me a hug. Well, maybe…I guess only if you know me well enough. You’re an adult; judge the situation.

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Danny Nathan grew up at Grace participating in the music and worship ministry. He’s currently a worship leader, leading people into worship in a variety of venues, including our modern worship service and student ministry gatherings. Danny is a graduate of The Ohio State University with a degree in English. In June 2016, Danny married his high school sweetheart Alli.


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3 Responses

  1. Connie Mitchell says:

    I love your transparency!! Thank you for your willingness to share! It is a breath of fresh air.

  2. Teri Easterday says:

    Thank you Danny, for a joyful slant on how God teaches us truths through our maladies.

  3. Teri Easterday says:

    PS Danny: Even though your malady (Grace-a-titis) is “in your face”, most of us do not even notice it! I never sit in the first row, but from the audience, no one would ever know that anything was on your face. We just see your great character!

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