Updated: Mar 27, 2020
ad-ap-ta-tion: (noun) a change in which an organism or species becomes better suited to it’s environment
Humans have the amazing physical, psychological, and emotional capability to adapt to change. These adaptations can help us grow stronger and healthier in all areas of our lives. If we somehow block that growth, then our adaptations can become destructive. I see evidence of this every time I visit India.
The wound care segment of our Medical Clinic was extremely busy with wounds the tsunami gashed into its victims. The wounds were about three weeks old, completely untreated and festering. I flew through patients, working as fast as I could. Glancing at those waiting outside, I saw a man dressed in a clean, white Punjabi and surrounded by flies. The others in line kept their distance.
When the man walked in, he told me he had a problem with his foot. I’d seen enough leprosy patients to recognize this. What they perceive is never the disease, only a symptom.
I asked him to lie down and I cut off the rag bandage from his heel. Maggots burst out of the wound gasping at the new air. Fellow medical workers screamed or contained groans. I began to pick out the wormy creatures one, two, three at a time. As soon as I removed a few, more appeared in the wound. The wound cavity was so deep I could see through to the top of his foot.
I cleaned the wound, which the maggots had actually kept quite clean. Using donated materials—the best wound care products in the world—I packed his foot cavity, dressed his foot tightly to keep the maggots out, and asked him to return in a few days.
Later that week, I saw a cloud of flies in the clinic line surrounding the man in the white Punjabi. I cut the bandage and stripped away the expensive dressings. Once again, maggots burst forth.
I asked the man to sit up so we could talk face-to-face. Through the interpreter, I told him that he had leprosy. I told him he needed to go to a leprosarium to have his foot amputated.
Leprosy is a death sentence in India. Everyone knows it.
But the man looked at me and said, no, he didn’t have leprosy. He didn’t have a wound on his foot, that it didn’t even hurt. He assured me everything was okay. I got an old mirror and tried to show him the wound, but he said he couldn’t see it because the mirror was cloudy and his eyes were bad. He insisted he was fine and he refused to be treated.
Weeks later, I couldn't stop dreaming about it. Maggots don't belong inside a person. They were slowly eating him, hiding in his increasingly numb nerve pathways. He needed drastic treatment, but he didn’t grasp the severity of this disease—he couldn’t feel it, so it must not exist.
Aren’t we all numb to spiritual maggots eating us? We don’t acknowledge the deep unhealthiness in our core. We ignore it and let it eat away at our soul, when what we really need is an amputation. We fool ourselves into believing that the disturbing cloud of flies buzzing around us is unimportant that we are just fine. Often we trivialize our sins or the rotting unforgiveness the lies in our core. We pretend that all is okay and we have left the past behind.
What if we admitted our disease and realized that saving face in the short-term cannot compare to the beauty of finding true, deep peace in the long term?