Thursday, December 19, 2013

December 19th

These are sections from my journal. I've been keeping this particular journal since December of last year. I'm probably going to be sharing more sections, from time to time.

There aren't any plausible explanations for these things, so I won't attempt to offer any. I can't explain this even to myself. I try to be present- as much as I can, and to describe- as well as I can.

The first of these is from this summer and the rest is from this week. I put them together because they suddenly fit together, when I was thinking about these things.

Written July 23rd, 2013

I had to get used to Jesus all over again. He was so quiet, very still- letting me come close.

You know Me, He assured me gently.

And I did know Him! He was so familiar!

"Jesus, I love You! I love You, You beloved Son, well pleasing and dearly familiar," I whispered to Him. "I do know You, You sharply diving Word of God... and Lord of Hosts, mighty in battle," I continued, as phrases drifted up from my memory.

I remembered the old way I had used to think of Jesus- warlike and terrible, full of wrath and with a face of stone, stomping down the grapes. This did not fit with the way I knew Him now. I thought I was probably getting "mighty in battle" wrong, so I asked Jesus about it.

In response, He showed me the cross. This whole understanding flowed into me, along with this particular verse:

"God [or Christ; L He] ·stripped the spiritual rulers and powers of their authority [L disarmed/despoiled the rulers and authorities]. With the cross, he won the victory and ·showed the world that they were powerless [publicly shamed them; made a public spectacle of them; C like a triumphant general displaying his captives in a victory parade]."

-Colossians 2:15, Expanded Bible


Written December 15th, 2013

I remembered Jesus saying, so urgently, don’t turn away from Me.

I knew better, then, what He meant.

Because how can love be meaningful, be deep, be worth everything, if we are not seen and loved and accepted at the deepest levels?

That is what Jesus wanted from me, as much as I could- as much as I could believe.


Written December 16th, 2013

I did not know where this request was coming from, but it was rising up out of me, quite strongly, again and again.

And then I was looking down at His head and His dark hair was matted with blood and sweat and tangled in the thorns, and blood was all down His face, with dirt and bruises and sweat- His face was filthy, white and sick looking. His head was hanging down, His shoulders and arms stretched out, also streaked with blood and dirt. Jesus just looked so ill, hardly conscious.

I seemed to be hanging in the air at the level of Jesus’ head- which seemed to be quite a few feet above the ground. This was peculiar, but I’m so accustomed now to participating in things that are impossible, that, after a moment, I simply accepted this and moved passed it.

I knew, because I had read this, that death by crucifixion was a very shameful death, but I hadn’t grasped this with any real depth until that moment. It wasn’t just the physical torture; He was made helpless and completely and nakedly rejected- made fun of- while slowly dying in excruciating pain.

This entire understanding flooded into me, into my spirit. There was something so indescribably awful and bone jarringly, sickeningly wrong about seeing Jesus made helpless that way- to see Him helpless at all- stripped of any dignity and in so much pain.

Horror and pity and white hot, fierce love flooded into my soul. It did not even occur to me to turn away; I threw my arms around His shoulders- it was as if I was a ghost and insubstantial; my arms passed right through the beams- and I pressed my face to His and I whispered into His ear, “I love You, I love You, Jesus, I love You- I love You exactly as You are, and I am not ashamed of You.”

Thinking about this later, I remembered what Jesus had said to me the day before: don't turn away from Me. I thought, now I understand what He had been asking me.


We were walking through the crowd by the river. I was there, again, like a ghost. Jesus went into the water, but I hung back.

“This is for You,” I said, respectfully, and instead, crouched down on the bank, my arms around my legs, my chin on my knees, and watched.

I saw Him come up out of the water dripping wet, His hair plastered to His head and running down His beard and the heavens opened up into light, incandescent, dazzling light and out of the light was the dove, which then landed on Jesus’ head.

And it was so beautiful and human and full of glory, all at the same time, because Jesus looked undeniably silly with a bird on His head. And the marvelous thing, is that Jesus knew He did and He didn’t mind. Because He’s like that. He’s not vain glorious or puffed up.

Jesus can be standing in the dazzling light of the love of the Father, hearing the delighted love of the Father shudder through the air in words of absolute love and pleasure, all the while standing dripping wet with a bird on His head, and smiling and being in the whole thing, the whole moment, human and divine, full of glory and vulnerability, fully present in all those aspects of who Jesus is.

I thought about how Jesus is the Anointed who was born in a shelter for animals, to a teenage girl, on a trip to pay taxes to a foreign conqueror. I thought how His procession into the city was not on a war horse so that He could physically take the throne, but on a donkey, in order to die.

I thought about how He said, blessed are those who do not stumble because of Me, and I wondered if He meant, because of His humanity, His meek and humble heart.


Then Jesus was walking up Golgotha and they had given the cross to someone else, but Jesus was having such a hard time walking, because He was exhausted and drained and light headed. It was so hot and glaring and His whole body was crippled with pain and He was so thirsty- His throat and mouth were dry from the dust and because He was dehydrated from blood loss.

Jesus stumbled to His knees and they whipped Him, to make Him get up and immediately, I was like some kind of ferocious animal. I turned as if about to tear them limb from limb for hurting Jesus- I was moving toward the dimly seen soldier, as if I could actually effect some kind of change, which I could not- and then I remembered that this was the exact opposite of what Jesus Himself was doing!

And it was no good for me to go against the way Jesus was going, when He was giving Himself so completely to the way of turning the cheek and taking up His cross and I had better help Him with that and not go the direct opposite way, because it took incredible strength and courage for Jesus to do what He was doing.

I remembered how Peter, out of love, had scolded Jesus and insisted that Jesus would never suffer and Jesus told Peter to get behind Him, out of His way- and the thing is, that was the same temptation Jesus faced in the desert- the temptation to be kept from pain, suffering and death.

Jesus had already faced that temptation once; He wouldn’t want to face it again, and from one of His beloved friends.

I thought about how, in the garden, Jesus said that He didn’t have to go through with this; He could have been rescued. Jesus could retaliate in force, strike blow for blow and decimate His enemies, and escape coming suffering and the shameful and excruciating death of crucifixion- what would appear to be utter failure to everyone that had hoped and believed in Him until that point.

But Jesus didn’t resist; He gave Himself over to them and to what was coming.

Then I thought about all the evils that came, throughout history, from anyone who felt driven, or passionate about “defending God” or His “cause.” Almost every terrible crime committed against humanity was in the name of God, taking up the sword for God.

And here God was, trying to find the physical strength to walk up the hill to His own death, because Jesus was determined to live out to the fullness everything that He said about forgiveness and nonviolence and mercy and love- to make manifest who God is, and to make clear what God is not.

And here I was, about to go against the very thing Jesus was doing! It was extraordinary, how clearly and how terrible the instinct was. I had no idea it was so strong in me. It was disconcerting and eye-opening.

I realized that in turning to try and strike out, even on His behalf, because I loved Him, I was turning away from Jesus, which is the exact thing He had asked me not to do.

Furthermore, if I had continued on in fierce anger, I would have been not just turning away, but going away from Jesus- He would have gone on His painful journey, and I would have descended away from Him, feeling powerful and justified, and the distance between us would have increased.

I thought about how, in the parable, some say to Him, "Lord, haven't we done mighty things in Your name?"

But all the time, Jesus Himself was a stranger to them. They had done impressive things in His name, but they had not known His heart- as if they had been going in one direction and Jesus had been going in another, with a growing distance between them.

I thought about how not taking the Lord's name in vain meant something closer to: do not make His reputation an empty thing, like a clanging gong, nothing but noise- loud and impressive but without meaning.

Jesus had said, where I am, my servant will be also.

And so, where was Jesus?

I remembered how the people in the parable are confused and they say, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and give you food? When did we see you thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you lonely and make you welcome, or see you naked and clothe you, or see you ill or in prison and go to see you?"

Of course, Jesus tells them that whenever they did it for the least of these, they were doing it for Him.

It occurred to me then that Jesus is not just saying that- He's felt it, to be in those places of pain, helplessness, rejection, sickness and shame. Of course He strongly identifies and suffers with those in the same places now. Of course He would feel passionate about that- He always did; He was always the God of the fatherless and the window, the poor, the oppressed and the foreigner in a stranger land, but how much more so, now.

So I got down in the sharp and broken rocks beside Jesus and it was as if He were leaning His weight on His hands, unable to get up, His mouth open and His eyes glassy- His face was sick and white and streaked.

It was as though time slowed down, so that the moment stretched out and out- as if, somewhere at the edges of my vision, I could see the soldier slowly, slowly, lifting the whip to drive it down again, but moving in tiny increments.

I called Him by name. Jesus turned His head and looked at me, directly at out of His pain filled and sunken, sick looking eyes, filled with so much grief and horror and exhaustion. I recognized Him, His eyes, Himself, with this lurch in the pit of my stomach.

And then I was speaking very calmly, but where this calmness came from, I don’t know, and this calmness and love were pouring out of me, in the quietness of my words, in the sure and steady and loving tone of my voice.

"Remember the garden," I whispered to Jesus. "Remember the green freshness of the garden in the early morning- when death is defeated and no one will ever have to die, because You have saved us all- that is ahead of You. That is where You are going."

Because we are the joy that was set before Him.


December 18th, 2013

I was standing close to Him, talking about how of course God would want the heart, the whole heart! What other exchange of relationship could possibly have enough meaning, or depth of relationship? God wants genuine, living relationship- the giving and exchanging of Himself with another, from the deepest, living part. It seemed to me that anything less than this would be so much paper-mache.

“As if You wanted a nice card in the mail!” I said, my thoughts still on the emptiness of paper.

Then I thought about that some more- how actually, I probably could make Jesus a card and that might actually be fun to do- to get the paper and to put it together in a beautiful and lovely way and that He would accept this with love.

“I could give You a card,” I said to Him, excited about this idea.

Yes, you could, Jesus agreed, full of loving and tender humor. Then His love swept through Him and He pulled me into His arms. Oh little one, He whispered, how I treasure you!

"I'm treasured," I whispered to myself, trying to believe this.

Yes, so very much, Jesus insisted. I would fight for you; I would go to battle for you.

I was still trying to take this in, when, like a kind of thunderclap, I realized that Jesus already had gone to battle, and that He had won.

Because what was meant for shame, rejection, pain and death, was instead turned on its head, was turned inside out and brought forth life instead- abundant, eternal life like a beautiful, tapestried parade of all things bright and beautiful, great and small, with Him and through Him.