by Wayne Geiger
As an adult, I have always been a student at heart and loved to learn. My high school days were a different story and perhaps the subject of a future article. But, as an adult, I love to do research and expand my horizons. At times, I tend to be a skeptic and a frequent visitor of Snopes.com. Perhaps, that’s why I can identify with Nathanael.
In the Gospel of John, a guy named Philip tells Nathanael that he has found the Messiah—Jesus of Nazareth. Nathanael’s response is classic, and he says, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip says in response, “come and see” (See John 1:45-46). Maybe Nathanael knew that Jesus was to come from Bethlehem and not Nazareth.
From Nathanael’s perspective, Nazareth was a little hole in the wall town with not more than a couple hundred people who lived there. What’s worse, Nazareth was a city of revolt. Several times in history the Roman army came to Nazareth to execute judgment—on one occasion crucifying 2000 Jews—many of whom in Nazareth and surrounding areas. The thought of Jesus coming out of Nazareth was beyond his comprehension and way outside of his box. Philip didn’t try to argue, he simply invited Nathanael to see for himself.
Some years ago, my family and I had just moved to South Louisiana. We were super excited to be moving into a new home and city—and all the new experiences that went along with it.
One of the first things I needed to do was some lawn maintenance. The grass needed to be cut, the bushes needed to be trimmed, and there were vines growing all over the place. It looked really messy. It was a full day of work with the lawnmower, weed eater, rake, and other lawn equipment. When I finished, it looked great!
The next morning, I noticed a bumpy rash on my arm that was a little itchy. No big deal. As the day went on, it itched occasionally, but it wasn’t too bad. That night, however, the need to scratch woke me up out of a sound sleep and I found myself itching feverishly, not only a small spot on my arm, but my entire arm—and now my other arm! I figured I had contracted some type of an allergic reaction to something that I had eaten or drank. I got up and took some Benadryl and put calamine lotion on my arms and tried, somewhat unsuccessfully, to go back to sleep.
The next day, I kept calamine lotion on and it wasn’t too itchy. I figured whatever it was would work its way out of my system. Again, that night as I tried to sleep, I tossed, turned, and itched all night—not only my arms, but I realized the blistering rash had now spread to my legs. I applied more lotion. I looked like a leper and was extremely miserable.
The next day, I connected with a friend and showed them my arm. Thankfully, they identified my problem: “Oh, you’ve got poison ivy!” Whatever you do, do not scratch. If you scratch it, you’ll break the blisters and it will spread!” Too late I thought.
Growing up in Miami, and not spending much time in the woods, I had never seen or experienced poison ivy before. But my guess was that’s exactly what the vine was that was growing up all over the back yard that I had ripped down and placed in garbage bags. Apparently, the ivy was not willing to go quietly and had inflicted one final revenge. “How long will it last?” I asked. “I could last a week, or so,” was his reply.
I counted the days and realized I was about halfway to a week by now. “I’ll just ride it out” I thought. I was now blistered on my arms, legs, and torso and was scratching like crazy. “Dummy me,” I thought, “I’ve been itching and have spread the stuff all over my body.” Now, I wondered how long this would last and was it possible that I would perpetually scratch, break the blisters, and cause the blisters to spread (rinse, repeat)!
My first thought was just wrapping myself up in ace bandages, but I feared looking like a mummy or a victim of an unfortunate accident. My wife took great pity and went to the store and found every type of itch relief and poison ivy cream and remedy that they offered. They helped a little. But, as much as I tried not to scratch, I just couldn’t help it—especially at night. I would wake up scratching like a wild animal.
I neglected to take my wife’s advice and go to the doctor and decided to go online and read up on poison ivy. Turns out, my research was extremely helpful. The truth is, poison ivy does not spread from scratching. The problem with poison ivy is the oil that the plant produces. When the oil gets onto your skin it causes an allergic reaction for many people. The problem is not the blisters, but the oil.
The oil is bad stuff and can spread by simple contact. For example, if you have the oil on one arm and touch the other arm it could spread and get into your system. Or, worse, if you have it on your shoe from the day before, you could get it—or even if your dog goes outside and gets into it and you pet the dog!
Thankfully, there are preventative measures that you can take to prevent the oils from getting onto you. In addition, a simple shower can wash off the oils (depending on the timing, it might have still gotten into your skin, but at least it won’t spread). However, scratching it and breaking the blisters do not cause the poison ivy to spread.
Looking back, when I asked a friend what I had—he knew it was poison ivy. However, he didn’t know much more than that. His knowledge was based upon information that had been handed down to him. He wasn’t trying to be deceitful but was just passing on information that he believed to be true and helpful. It wasn’t. It turns out, research into the truth was the key.
Philip simply invited Nathanael to come and see—to check it out for himself and do his own research. That was great advice. An interesting twist to Nathanael’s story is that, unbeknownst to many, Jesus was not born in Nazareth, but simply grew up there. He was born, as was prophesied in the Old Testament, in Bethlehem and was, indeed the promised Messiah. It turns out some of the information Nathanael had was a little jaded and a little research was all that was needed. Philip’s invitation led to Nathanael’s personal investigation and eventual transformation.
Wayne Geiger is the Pastor of First Baptist Grain Valley, an Adjunct Associate Professor of Speech, and freelance writer. He can be reached at waynegeiger.com.