I could feel summer in the air. And on my face.
After two cooler days, the temperatures were rising back to their normal summery levels. The sun was free from cloud cover and only the slightest of breezes stirred the muggy air.
I don’t always remember to wear sunscreen even though I have what you would call a fair complexion and a tendency to turn tomato red after just a bit of sun exposure. It’s the effort, sometimes, that keeps me from applying it. I just want to get where I’m going and not have to stop for a few seconds to spray on some protection or apply some cream to my face.
But I’ve suffered enough painful burns in my life to know that the effort is worth it. Smear some cream on my face. Spray my arms and neck. Put on a hat. These things take time but not that much and if I didn’t do them, my time would be spent applying aloe and moaning about the pain. Let’s not even talk about the possibility of skin cancer.
Wear sunscreen. It’s good advice.
I don’t normally bask in the sun, either. I love a sunny day but if I’m going to be out I seek the shade as relief. On this day, I had two stops to make in the city, and one place to park, so walking was part of the plan. And it was the right time of day for neither side of the street to be particularly shady.
I didn’t mind. I might have even raised my face to the sun a couple of times. I was wearing sunscreen. I was protected. I could take my time. I didn’t have to hurry to get out of the sun’s reach. Not like a few days earlier when I hadn’t applied sunscreen and I was standing in the heat of day on a Virginia farm and I interrupted a conversation so we could move to the shade.
When I’m not wearing sunscreen, I’m distracted by my need for shade. When I do have it on, I still look for opportunity to find relief under a tree or in the shadow of a building, but it’s not my main motivator.
With sunscreen on my skin, I feel a bit of freedom. I don’t have to worry as much about where I go or how quickly I get there. I don’t have to worry as much about being burned, about later pain as a result of my interaction with the sun.
As I walked through the city, something else occurred to me:
My soul needs its own kind of sunscreen.
Not long ago, I realized I was shielding my soul with a hard shell. Hate, it seemed, was my protection against hurt. It was like wrapping my body in long sleeves and long pants no matter the temperature, or spending every sunny day inside my house, away from the sun.
But my soul was exposed anyway. What I thought was protecting it was really just making it shriveled and hard. Like skin repeatedly exposed to the sun without sunscreen, leathery and tough. That’s not how I wanted to be. That’s not how I want to be.
So, I’m trying something new. Okay, it’s not at all new. It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book.
Instead of protecting my soul by withdrawing, I’m going to slather it with love first.
It is central to everything.
I am loved by a Source so much bigger than myself.
When I start with love, knowing that at my core I am loved as I am before I do anything, I can walk through life with a sort of protection. I am free to go anywhere, be anything. To love without demand, to give generously, to share joy. With love on my soul, I can speak what is true without being hurt by those who don’t agree. It might sting a little. I might sweat. But the imprint of the hurt won’t be burned on my soul.
Love is my soul-screen. I will not start a day without it unless I want to spend my nights complaining about the pain and tending my wounds.
Love does not mean I will never be hurt, but I will be hurt less by the heat of life.
Love does not mean I will never seek relief for my soul. I will still need to rest in the shade of those friends and loved ones who offer themselves as a shield.
And it’s not a once-and-for-all. Like sunscreen, I will need to apply my soul-screen regularly. And maybe there will be times I need a stronger dose. But I’m much more interested in interacting with the world around me than I am withdrawing from it.
For me, the only way to do that is to wear sunscreen on my soul.