A brown spot, about the size of a quarter, appeared one day on our bathroom wall. Water was seeping past the shower curtain, causing a problem. My wife seemed to think I should do something.
“It’s squishy,” she said, testing it with her thumb.
“Don’t!” I advised, “That’ll just make it worse.” She commented that it seemed to be getting worse all by itself.
“Yeah, well…” I said, as I left the bathroom.
But the brown spot didn’t go away. It didn’t fade, dry up, or heal on its own. I saw it over my shoulder in the bathroom mirror. It followed me around the room; an unblinking Cyclops, a one-eyed judge. I adjusted the shower curtain, but it still peered at me. I needed a plan. So I decided to shower less often and avoid the bathroom when my wife was there.
But the brown spot kept growing.
“Have you seen it lately?” my wife asked.
“Seen what?” I asked in a friendly tone. She didn’t answer. “Oh that,” I said, “Yeah, I’ve seen it.” She was quiet, so I added, “I’ll look into it.”
Brown spots. They’re everywhere. Every time I turn around something else has gone wrong; the refrigerator is broken, the bank account is low or the car is making a funny noise. But the worst kind of all are the ‘relational’ kind, like when a friend won’t speak to you or a child’s feelings are hurt. Brown spots are everywhere.
Brown spots show up a lot in marriage. Usually some cold, damp words have leaked out and splashed against your spouse. At first, it seems like a small thing. You think, “In time, it’ll dry up and go away”. But it doesn’t. It turns purple and then a sick green. If you don’t do something, it becomes an old, toxic wound.
I should look into it. I should do something. But what if it’s worse than I thought? What if I don’t know how to fix it? What then? It just seems easier to avoid the whole mess.
I hate those brown spots. They feel like curses. And once you stop and think about it, you realize. ‘Of course… that’s what they are.” They are the thorns and thistles that God warned us about. They are the death and decay that result from our rejection of God. And now they’re everywhere.
On The Run
I admit it. I’m on the run. I want away from cutting thorns and tangling thistles. They’ll be the end of me, for sure. The situation feels desperate. That’s why I have dedicated so much of my life to escaping problems.
Through research, I have developed a whole repertoire of avoidance methods. With so many brown spots not to deal with, you need options. First, I try pretending that problems aren’t there or that they’ll go away. If they persist, I escape into other ‘important’ work or ‘needed’ play. If someone tries to hold me accountable, I get irritated until they give up. Or I might change the subject or shift the responsibility onto others. And when all else fails, I scrunch up my face and wish earnestly that life were different.
I work hard to escape the curses in life, but I have a problem. God cursed the ground on account of Adam’s sin. So no matter how fast I run, I can’t outdistance the ground. Even if I could fly, sooner or later, I’d have to come back down to a stark reality: I cannot escape brown spots. There are brown spots on my bananas. There are liver spots on my arms at midlife. And someday there will be dark spots on my MRI. I cannot avoid curses any more than I can outmaneuver the horizon.
Then those brown spots come along and remind me that I’m not strong enough or clever enough to control life. The message touches a nerve. It fingers the real reason I avoid problems – deep down, I believe I’m self-sufficient. But then, problems expose the fact that I’m not. Brown spots silently insist that life apart from God is not possible.
Self-sufficiency is the true root of a man’s avoidance problem. It may look like I am merely insecure. But underneath, I am insubordinate. Outwardly, I am the Stereotypical Man who won’t admit he doesn’t know what to do. But inwardly, I am the Archetypical Man who won’t admit who he really is.
Problems remind me, in small ways like home repair and in big ways like death, that I need God. I run from the message. I rebel against it. You see, I’m not merely avoiding difficulties, I’m running from the truth of how God made me. Yes, I am definitely on the run.
Roger Edwards joined The Barnabas Center in 1991. In addition to counseling individuals and couples, Roger teaches and leads discussion groups about applying the Bible to everyday life. He is a licensed professional counselor, holds a master’s degree in biblical counseling from Grace Theological Seminary in Indiana and earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He is married to Jean and they have seven children.