Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can it be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot” (Matthew 5:13).
I am familiar with the use of salt to flavor and preserve food, and, because I have lived in the Midwest, to make roads and sidewalks less slippery in the winter. But recently, I was introduced to the power of salt to exfoliate.
As I mentioned in a previous post, my dear friend treated me to a day at a Korean spa. One of the treatments I received was an all-over, this is going to take a while, salt scrub.
If you’ve had a salt scrub like this, you know that you come out of the experience feeling like you have the skin of a newborn. If you’re like me and this is the first time you’ve done this after fifty-one years of life, you wonder how many pounds or inches you’ll have lost once all the dead skin is sloughed off. You feel refreshed and renewed and exhilarated, yet centered.
But you also come away aware that the renewal happens because of a lot of hard work on the part of the scrubber. And a little discomfort because the exfoliant is salt.
Here’s how it works. At least, here’s how it went for me.
I lied down on a table in an area where several of us were receiving scrubs. The spa was calming, but the atmosphere was more sanitary than serenity (totally fine by me any day). The demeanor of the woman scrubbing me was more get down to business, we’ve got big work to do, than whispery, I’m here to help you indulge in your special me time. No new age music here; instead, every once in a while the woman sang a few lines of something in Korean as she scrubbed. I wondered if it was a favorite song, something stuck in her head, or something more along the lines of will my work on this person ever be done, or maybe a song about crocodiles.
But she scrubbed. She poured a salty solution on me and wearing textured gloves rubbed the salt across my skin. She asked if the pressure was all right, and, hearing my ‘yes,’ went over and over each spot until she was ready to address the next area. She didn’t speak except when, after smacking me lightly on the arm or leg, she would direct me: Side. Other side. Face up.
The salt found a few blemishes and tiny cracks in my skin of which I was previously unaware. The sting was only slight but enough to call it a sting. Otherwise, I felt like I was getting a very thorough massage with steel wool. It was invigorating, enlivening, and made me feel like I was doing something, even though I was merely the recipient of the scrubber’s thorough attention and expertise.
With each repositioning, the woman poured multiple bowls of progressively warmer water over me, rinsing away the salt and, I knew, the sloughed off dead skin that I caught glimpses of as she worked (yes, as gross as it sounds). The water felt soothing, and she used so much, she must have been getting as soaked as I was as she poured.
When she completed the treatment, my skin shone and felt new and soft. I felt calm and wide awake, relaxed and invigorated. I wished I had taken a before picture so I could be reminded of the difference this treatment had made, and the wonder that, because of the woman’s work with the salt, the before picture would show the old and the after picture the new.
And on this Saturday in the first week of Easter, I found myself thinking about newness and the new life we celebrate in Eastertide.
So what would I do with my newness, this newness this hard working woman had accomplished for me? Would it mean something to me, result in some new behavior or appreciation, or would I just think about the coming period of time as a descent into scruffiness, until the next time and place I can find a Korean spa?
The experience made me feel more respectful of my body, awed by the way it works, and the wonder that our cells get replaced.
I felt wonder at the fact that only another human being could do this for me. I couldn’t do it for myself and there’s no machine that could give the personalized attention the woman gave.
I felt appreciation for the woman whose hard work brought me refreshment and for the friend who gave me the treat of a brand new experience.
I want to hold on to the newness, in the same was as getting my teeth cleaned by a dental hygienist makes me want to recommit to excellent dental hygiene and make sure I’m doing my part, and stay away from sugar, at least for a while.
It made me think of salt and how I love saltiness, in food, and, now in cleansing.
It made me appreciate my aging skin and the miraculous way we’re made and that an outer layer of me can be sloughed off, let go of, and I am still me.
It made me think of the strength of softness—how softness can be a strength, and the strength sometimes required to achieve softness.
It made me think of Jesus saying his followers are salt for the earth: adding flavor, preserving goodness, providing passage in the storm, and yes, sometimes, in the right hands, smoothing off the rough edges, bringing renewal, bringing softness out of strength.
And yes, it might sting a bit.