Wednesday, May 16, 2007
We Can't See Jesus, But He's Here
I'm at a Sacred Listening service at Ypsi Free Methodist Church. I'm not a member here. I'm here because my Spiritual Director is a pastor here. I haven't been to one of the services, but my friend Gina raves about them. I want to be quiet. I want to be with Jesus.
We don't have big honkin' man truck yet. Not the second one. Not even the first one. I haven't had the accident that even now, is the stuff of my worst nightmares. The monkey chatter in my brain hasn't been kicked up to include that level of facing my mortality, not even on Ash Wednesday. I want to be quiet. I want to hear Jesus.
Gina and I find a seat near the back. It's hard for her to walk, and I don't have my glasses. I don't mind sitting in the back. I'm as impaired as she is without my glasses. I can't find them. I can't find anything. I lose things. Everything. It's a symptom of walking too fast through my life.
I can't listen to Jesus. My thoughts are racing. My heart is racing. My soul is racing. Money problems buffet me. I think everything is on me. I'm going to fall apart and then everything on me is going to fall apart. The Burney's are going to come down like a house of cards shuffling to the ground. I try to think of books that will be commercial successes. I can't think of anything. I try to think of more high-churchy books. I don't think I can pull it off. I try to think of the kind of literary writer stuff I dream of creating. "In your dreams, Mair," I mock myself. Ideas come and go when I should be sacredly listening. I think of what I can talk to Chip about. I think about Chip bringing my high ideas back to earth. I get depressed. I think it's the end of the world. I feel my mortality all right, and it has nothing to do with ashes and crosses and Jesus dying.
I wish I could listen.
One of the speakers is reading from the psalms, and I love the Psalms. He says words that mean something to me. "I am poor and needy."
He has my attention. Those words, "I am poor and needy," take me somewhere a long time ago.
It was 1996. I was in a mental hospital. It was a really bad day. The night before Ken had stayed out all night. He came home at 6 am. He'd been out all night getting high. I was awake all night getting angry. He came in and my rage converged with his exhaustion. I tried to beat him up. Ken is a man. He's got the tight, wiry build of the Masai in Africa, but he's a man. He tried only to get me away from him, but he couldn't sway me from my anger fueled mission. I fought and fought him until he pushed me away and I turned my rage on myself. That morning I took a bottle of benadryl. Seventeen of them. I counted them. And then I waited for sleep and death to come.
Only I didn't want to die. I was just mad. I told him I took all those pills and was going to die. I don't think he believed me. Or he didn't care. Or something. In any case he didn't respond like I thought he should. I had to call the ambulance and be my own hero that day! That got me a ticket straight way, after the stomach pumping thing, to the crazy house, if you'll pardon my expression. And let me tell you, that is a most unpleasant place.
People scream for no apparent reason, anguished screams like you'd hear in hell. And if you think you see sadness in the world, it's multiplied in a mental hospital. There was a woman in her fifties who carried a baby doll she thought was her child. There were junkies trying to hustle me. A woman who tried to commit suicide every Thanksgiving. There was a woman with multiple personality disorder, tormented by one of her alters. And me, so full of sorrow I could die. Oddly, this was a "Christian" hospital. They sent me waaaaaaay across the world to this strange, Evangelical Christian hospital in Auburn Hills of all the places I could have gone. They did Christian therapy, and had tracts and Minirth Meier materials. It was funny! It was totally a God thing. And they had a Bible.
I could hardly concentrate my mind was so fried. And they put me on medication. I just sat there in front of a Bible, my mind a mess of burned out wires barely connecting. I just flipped pages, my hands flying through books of the Bible like a vulture hunting for prey until I found a few paltry words I could hone in on. "I am poor and needy." They were suddenly there. I have no memory of seeing such a thing in the scriptures before. "I am poor and needy, but the Lord hears me." And wasn't that just perfect.
That was all I needed to know about God. It was Good News in the truest sense of the word--the gospel. The best news I'd ever heard. And now, years later, I'm at a Sacred Listening service and I heard the words again. And I know, once again, God is with me.
My gaze went to the speaker, and though without my glasses I couldn't see him, I could see in my spirit this desert overflowing with blooms. His words began to calm me. He spoke of springs in the desert. Of miracles that don't even make sense. God began to tell me how He would take care of me. He would be there for me. I began to cry as I listened and I felt the sweet presence of Jesus surround me. I put my face in my hands and lay my head on the pew and cried and cried. The last image I saw before I put my head down was Gina beside me weeping too.
Finally I calmed down. When the service was over, Gina said, "Did you see Jesus?"
"Uh. No. I generally don't see him."
Now Gina, she's extraordinary. The veil between heaven and earth is thinner for her. The glass we see through darkly is not as dark to her. She sees angels, and demons, and clouds of glory. She's a sensate. She sees. She experiences God in a way that astounds me. I don't see Jesus. Ever. Sometimes I feel Him. Sometimes He says things that I sense He is saying and I say them, but I get Him wrong, too. I don't have visions. Dreams sometimes. Nothing like what she gets. She amazes me. No, I didn't see Him.
"He walked right down the aisle," she said. "And he stopped right where you were. He put his hand on your shoulder, and stayed there."
I didn't see Jesus. But I know exactly when He showed up. I know exactly when He touched me. It was when I finally heard His Father speak to me. And I cried. I put my face in my hands and that's when Jesus touched me. I never saw Him, but He was there. Gina saw Him for me.
I guess I'm telling you this story because whether or not you have a Gina in your life to see Jesus, I believe He's there. There were dozens of people in the room that day, but He stopped for me. That isn't to say that He wasn't there for the other people. It's just a little testimony about the time that Jesus stopped for me.
There you are. And there is your thing that has your mind all twisted. Let me be your Gina. Let me say I know you can't see Him, but I assure you He just walked down the aisle, stopped right where you are, and placed His hand, squarely on your shoulder.
And He waited, right there while you cried.
He's still there. Still waiting.
He's not going anywhere.