Think about the worst sunburn you’ve ever had….

Everyone has a story. I have sunburns on my mind because we just spent a few days at the beach and we accumulated a few sunburns. Overall, we managed to leave fairly unscathed. My husband was a bit blotchy from where someone missed some spots on his back and somehow he managed to get a sunburn in his belly button. I didn’t even know that could happen. The worst sunburn I’ve ever had is kind of embarrassing to admit. When my best friend and I went camping in my brilliant junior high days, we forgot to take sunscreen. We decided it would be a fantastic idea for us to use butter as a substitute. Yes. Butter. It smelled really good and felt similar to using baby oil (which we had done in the past.). Basically, what happened to our skin was akin to what happens when you cook any type of food…in butter. Not sexy at all.

There are really only two things you have to do with sunscreen if you don’t want to toast your skin: apply and reapply. The first time, when you “apply”, is the most important. Good coverage takes time; rub it in every nook and cranny. It will probably take assistance from your parent, spouse, friend or an adorable stranger to effectively smear it on that hard to reach¬† zone on your back. And, for goodness sake, don’t go running into the water 2 1/2 seconds later. It has to soak in at least a few minutes, duh. So, after you have been sunbathing for awhile or in and out of water, you have to “reapply” it. This is the part that separates the scorched vs un-scorched people at the end of the day. Sometimes we get lazy and don’t do it. Or we are simply having too much fun to take time out for silly sunscreen. Or, as a parent, we nag our kids to reapply, wrestle them to do so, and totally neglect our own skin. Two simple tasks that can prevent the pain that comes from trying to sleep or even wear clothes at all with a sunburn; apply and reapply.

I’ve learned to apply a lot of pretty helpful relational, personal growth, and spiritual practices. Between things I read and groups I attend (for me, those include church and Recovery programs) I have gathered a plethora of skills that, when applied, help me live in joy and serenity and freedom. These skills can be used to help me mind my own business, replace worry with trust, develop realistic expectations of others, serve those around me, and let go of resentments. Applying these skills aren’t my main problem. It’s the “reapplying” that gets me. I get too busy to make it to meetings, stay up too late and talk myself out of going to church, or start my day running without pausing to pray or read before the busyness takes over. It’s not that church or meetings or reading are what make my life work better, it’s that they remind me of the skills I need to make my life work better. Just like reapplying sunscreen, sometimes I am too worried about other people and neglect my own “skin”. Sometimes life seems to be going so well that i don’t feel the need for a meeting or church or for solitude, reflection and prayer. Then, my life gets unmanageable; my skin gets baked and blistered. Sometimes, like a sunburn, I can see the damage right away. Then, there are the times I think I’m doing fine until that night, when my skin gets redder and redder…and redder. That’s an ominous feeling. You know you’re in trouble and you start kicking yourself for not reapplying. “How many times do I have to do this to myself before I learn my lesson?” The answer, for me is, “a lot.” But I do have an inkling that I am making a bit of progress. It doesn’t take me nearly as long as it used to to reapply. And I don’t have to get burnt-to-a-crisp before I do it. I might notice my skin beginning to change from white to red and get the sun screen on sooner. I consider this a success. Applying and reapplying will be necessary as long as the sun still shines-both for the health of my skin and the health of my soul.

Note***applying or re-applying butter to one’s skin may be hazardous to your health***

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