On December 1st, I wrote this:
"I remembered how He had been slowly coaxing me closer and closer to Him, lovingly and faithfully..."
But I have yet to actually describe what that looked like or felt like. Now I going to tell the back story.
In late September, when I began blogging about Him, I felt Jesus near me as a loving presence that hovered near me- the same way that I would sometimes experience Him during a worship service, for example, when I would feel as though I were being drawn into His presence.
But even this was incredible to me. I could actually sense Him, in my spirit. I could feel His love for me, and hear Him as He spoke to my heart.
However, one night, I felt Him come down and actually take me in His arms. This was not a vague expression of His love- it was personal and distinct. Jesus was actually cradling my spirit in His embrace. There was no distance.
It shocked me. I pushed right away from Him. It was as though I drew a line in the spiritual sand.
I said, "You are God. Your role is to be on the throne, elevated, and to reach down with graceful but dignified condescension to me, your humble and undeserving creature. There is a distance between us! It is a proper distance! You are God! Your behavior must reflect the proper distance."
However, it's quite clear that Jesus is not interested in the human idea of proper distance, or even the human idea of propriety. He frequently breaks the rules. He eats with dirty hands, He works on the Sabbath, He makes a ruckus in the temple, He talks to shameful, Samaritan women- gasp!- and He allows repentant prostitutes to wash His feet with their hair.
He defends the pouring out of hugely valuable jars of ointment, He washes His disciple's feet, He refuses to condemn. He touches lepers with His bare hands. He says things like, many who are first shall be last and the last shall be first. He defends Mary and refuses to send her back to do women's work- she gets to stay and listen to Him.
He forgave the Roman soldiers as they were in the very act of crucifying Him; He turned the water used for ritual purification into heady wine; His death tore the temple curtain in two.
He is frequently asking us impossible things.
"How shall we feed all these people, Phillip?" Jesus asks- I can't help but think with a twinkle in His eye. Poor Phillip! I can just see him begin to stutter.
"If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me," Jesus says.
"But who do you say I am?" He asks.
It seems that He is always asking us that.
He wouldn't leave me alone! He kept coming up close and taking me in His arms. And when I say that, I mean, I could sense Jesus right there. When He put His hand to my face, I saw the scars. I could rest my head against His chest and all but audibly hear His heart beating, it was so distinct to me.
At first, I lay very, very still. This is what a human creature does when the Son of God is holding them in His arms. One holds very, very still.
Finally, I accepted. I wrote this on October 28th:
"I decided I would no longer defer. I said, I agree, I accept. That is how You see me, that is who I am to You. I yield to this, I won't push it or You away any longer.
"Unsurprisingly, this delighted and moved Him very much. I'm learning that we can make a significant emotional dent in God."
After that, I became more and more comfortable being that close to Jesus. I got so that I could lean back into Him and rest. I got so that I could confidently lift up my arms to Him in wonder and adoration. Each time, He never fails to catch me up close to Him and love on me.
Frequently, I feel His hand under my chin, tipping my head up to Him. This often happens when I am caught up in self condemnation. Sometimes I simply throw my arms around Him, bury my face in His robes and inhale, because He smells delicious. At night, I sleep in His arms like a kitten and during the day, He is always beside me.
Well, after a few weeks of this, I began to increasingly wonder if maybe He was getting ready to take me home. I mean, how else to explain it?
Each time I thought this, I would chide myself for being morbid and hand the thought over to Him.
Finally, I couldn't take it any more.
"Am I going to die?" I asked Him straight out, on one of our walks.
"I come that you might have life, and that more abundantly," He replied, with humor. I knew He was teasing me, just a little, because that answer could go both ways- living in Him, I have life abundantly, and because of Jesus, even if I die, I have eternal life in Him. It is an extraordinary thing to be teased by the Son of God.
"Fine! Be obtuse! I get it. But why are You like this with me? Why? Why, why, why? What am I supposed to do with all this, anyway?" I was like a small child, tugging incessantly on His sleeve.
"Because you're Mine, and I want you close to Me," He replied.
And what could I say to that?
You might reasonably suppose that with all this, I would be satisfied to bursting. So you would think, but it is not so.
On November 21st, I wrote this:
"So, last night I was suffused with sheer longing, unbearable longing, wordless long. It crippled my soul. I had no words for this longing- I just poured it out to Him. I don't know what it is I want-
"So too the [Holy] Spirit comes to our aid and bears us up in our weakness; for we do not know what prayer to offer nor how to offer it worthily as we ought, but the Spirit Himself goes to meet our supplication and pleads in our behalf with unspeakable yearnings and groanings too deep for utterance."
What more do I want from Him? Why can't I just be satisfied?"
But I couldn't be; I began to long, more and more intensely, to be with Jesus fully. I blogged about this. What I didn't blog about was how much I continued to wonder if maybe my time really was up.
Finally, Jesus helped me put it into perspective. It was the same night that He set me free from that old understanding of judgment.
That night, I was exhausted after having worked my way through that old fear and so I went to bed early to read. I read a book written by a woman who experienced a vivid vision of heaven after her body died and before the medical team resuscitated her.
I drank this book up. At midnight, while Keith quietly snored away beside me, I got near the end of the book. At that point, she knew that she had to go back to her life. She still had work left for her to do before she could go home for good.
As I read this part in my quiet, lamp lit room, I knew what Christ was saying to me. I too had work left to finish before I could go home. Gently, Jesus directly my attention toward them. I put the book down and looked over at Keith, peaceful and asleep next to me. I thought of how my love was an anchor in his life. I thought the children that might be waiting to be adopted and who would care for them if we were not a family? I thought of my writing, waking up each morning and trying to put this into words, the joy and the frustration of it, and how much more there was waiting to be written; I could feel the shapeless weight of those future words.
These three things, my husband, my future family and my writing fell softly into my thoughts, my waiting, listening spirit, and Jesus did not even have to ask me directly. I let go of my hopes that I might see Him soon and simply said, "Okay."
And I began to cry, for the second time that night. My grief at having to continue separated from Him was so great that I lay there sobbing and wiping the tears away with the back of my hand.
I kept telling myself,-but I'll always have Jesus right next to me, in my spirit! He's very close to me!
But this couldn't stop the upwelling of grief; I had to simply sob until I had poured it all out. I was sobbing in His arms. I felt light all through me and all through the room. I felt as if Heaven were about as close to me as the ceiling of the room.
I cried again in the morning, when I wrote to my mom about it. I felt fragile and full of light that entire day, as if I were a paper lamp shade. I still feel like crying every time I think about the experience.
Our work in this life is to love each other, and to deepen in our relationship with God. We love the people that are given to us to love- our work is to give ourselves away.
We give ourselves away to Christ and we give ourselves away to others, and doing so is frequently one and the same thing. In doing so, we come as close to Him as we possibly can, in this life.
And then we get to go home.