Friday, December 9, 2016

The Risen Christ

February 12, 2012

When I read my own story, I so often wish I had better lines than my own.

When Jesus came and held me in His love, why couldn't I have said something more worshipful or adoring than "You are still here..."


I came across the words of a hymn as I was reading Waters on a Starry Night:

"When morning gilds the skies, my heart awakening cries, may Jesus Christ be praised!"

As usual, it gave me a start to see His name somewhere I hadn't expected; I felt a rush of pleasure. I know Him, I think to myself, with glee.

To the character in that book, Jesus was not real. He was like a symbol: a cross and an empty tomb at Easter, and a star and a manger at Christmas.

"I am my own person," I read somewhere today. Those words shocked me. I was shocked to remember ever feeling that way- I used to, and not that long ago! I used to think saying such things was a mark of maturity. I forgot that I ever believed that. Because it’s not true; we aren’t our own persons.

Or, as C.S. Lewis puts it, and ever so beautifully:

"Each breath I drew let into me new terror, joy, overpowering sweetness. I was pierced through and through with the arrows of it. I was being unmade. I was no one. But that's little to say; rather, Psyche herself was, in a manner, no one. I loved her as I would once have thought it impossible to love, would have died any death for her. And yet, it was not, not now, she that really counted. Or if she counted, (and oh, gloriously she did) it was for another's sake. The earth and stars and sun, all that was or will be, existed for his sake. And he was coming. The most dreadful, the most beautiful, the only dread and the only beauty there is, was coming. The pillars on the far side of the pool flushed with his approach. I cast down my eyes."

-Till We Have Faces

February 14, 2012

This morning, I stood at the front window and looked out at the rain soaked front lawn. When I stepped closer to the window, I saw that the clouds had formed one of those lovely, jagged gaps through which the rising sun was pouring out white and gold glory, with a glimpse of blue sky behind.

It was as though my God were standing beside me, watching the sky with me. He spoke quietly to me.

See how the clouds only enhance the light? He asked.

"They do," I breathed in wonder.

I thought of the hard things, the pain and the suffering, how they only become a foil for greater glory; I thought of how they are all transformed.

I thought of that quote:

"In my deepest wound I saw Your glory, and it dazzled me." -St. Augustine

February 14, 2012 Unpublished

This morning, I was listening to music, and my joy rose up and it was so intense, almost I squashed it and then I yielded to the joy that rose up out of love of Jesus, and Jesus was there, wrapping His arms around my shoulders, His head close to mine.

My love and adoration for Him flowed through me like water- as though my spirit were water, or had become water and His love around me was like a warm boundary that fenced me in, that held me securely, both to who I was and to who He was- He held me up and held me in and sustained me. I could abandon myself to worship of Him, because Jesus was keeping me completely safe.

Then it was too much and I held back, and then I reached out again for Jesus and He held my face in His hands and put His face against mine.

I am the One that has you, I remembered Jesus saying.

February 15, 2012 Garden Enclosed

A few nights ago, I forced myself up from the computer at seven in the evening, after having written for a large part of the afternoon. Within me, I felt a deep and driving hunger for some time spent with God.

It's strange, writing. It takes so much of my concentration. I stop frequently to check and be sure He is still there.

Once I was huddled up in bed, I thought I would read but I couldn't read. I tossed the book aside and turned out the lamp.

In the dark, I called on His name. Over and over again, I cried out to Jesus. I called forth all His beautiful names- the Rose of Sharon, the Lion of Judah, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the root and branch of David, the Bright and Morning Star.

And He came. Jesus was there before I had even called out to Him. In fact, I suspect that I was longing for Him because He was first calling to me.

I was gathered up close to Him and hidden under the shadow of His wings, where it rosy and warm. It was like breathing in and breathing out- worshiping Jesus and falling into Him.

My joy and desire was like breathing in. To breathe in is to fall into Him, to recognize and yield to His love, His ownership and it sends my spirit up in flames.

Breathing out is to become so overwhelmed that I must fall back, in awe, because such intimacy with God is almost unbearable and I cannot sustain it for long. But I couldn't fall back far, because He had me surrounded and pulled in close.

Fragments of scripture came and went. I remembered a fragment of what Gabriel had said to Mary:  "...and shall call His name Jesus," the angel had said.

This filled me with a kind of wonder and joy that I cannot explain. It shook me to the core; it seemed like one of the most profound statements ever said on earth, in all of history.

"Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!" I cried out, as though His name was like fire crackers that I could let off into the air, to expand out into light.

I remembered Him saying this:

"Every person the Father gives me eventually comes running to me. And once that person is with me, I hold on and don't let go.” (John 6:39, The Message)

I remembered Him saying:

"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.” (John 10:27-30)

And I remembered Jesus saying to me: you are Mine. It is you that are Mine. I am the One that has you.

When I thought of these things, I understood what Jesus had been teaching me, and worship and adoration swept through me and there were no words enough to contain or express this worship. It was as though my entire self, given over, was the expression of my worship.

"Search my heart, and know me," I said to Him, with abandon, "try my heart, and know all my ways- all my thoughts and everything in my heart and all that is me."

Those verses used to frighten me, but not any longer. Since I am already completely known, it's nothing but pleasure to willingly fall into what is already true.

I couldn't stop naming Him. I called out all Jesus’ names like flags falling open in a brisk, clean ocean wind- they went streaming out in the air. I called Him by His official names and by my own, personal names for Him.

"You Son of God, You son of David," I named Jesus, "You beautiful, You Only, You One. You, You, You. Beloved, beautiful, altogether lovely and sweet."

Sometimes I couldn't tell if Jesus were naming me or if I were naming Him, and the terms of endearment would go back and forth between us more quickly and naturally even than breathing. I gave up wondering about the mystery of it; I simply gave myself up to it.

Over and over again, I called out for Jesus. Sometimes the longing for Him was so sharp and sweet I thought it unbearable; it sent my heart out to crash on the shores of some bright, some beautiful and unimaginable future. Each time I had to reel my heart back in and pour out into the immediate moment.

I thought I could never get enough, but after some time, my spirit grew quiet and I simply rested in His arms. My thoughts wandered back to earth.

I understood something in a new way, then. I understood a little more what it means to be His walled garden, His spring shut up- I am His fountain of gardens, a well of living waters. Recently, I had read that passage and I remembered it, and my understanding of it increased.

When Jesus comes to me, He comes to what is His, kept by Him. Because He is the wall and the sunlight and the rain and the wind.

And He Himself is the living water.

The next day, I looked up that fragment of remembered scripture, and found more of it:

"And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
-Luke 1:31-33

I felt Jesus close to me all that day, and later, I felt Him come up behind me and wrap His arms around my shoulders. I was enclosed by His love. I leaned back into Him without hesitation and with loving recognition.

He drew to my mind the things I had learned the night before- that I was His garden enclosed. I acknowledged this also without words, simply by accepting and rejoicing in it.

Still with His arms around me, Jesus expanded my understanding further out, or deeper in, from that point- that to be His garden enclosed was to be His spouse. I belonged that deeply and that much to Him.

I understood then that His role was not that of a gardener- or, if it was as one of a gardener, what that really meant, was that He was my husband- one who protects, provides for, nurtures, and enjoys what is His alone. Even in our language, the meanings overlap.

Again, I acknowledged and accepted this without words- I completely yielded myself with joy and awe to the deeper understanding of how I belonged to Jesus.

Then, almost instinctively, I put the entire thought away from me- out of mind, and thought about other things. I think I did this out of self-defense.

Then it struck me again, what He had just opened up to me.

I did that all evening long.

It was as though Jesus had given me the keys to a new room, a deeper, brighter room. It had always been my room, but I hadn't been ready to open the door. So, I kept tip toeing up to the door and cracking it open, my heart pounding, and then shutting the door and leaning against it, my knees weak.

Husband, I thought to myself, with awe. My God is my Husband. I am married to my God.


"But I can't be married to You," I told Jesus, nervously. "The Marriage Supper hasn't happened yet."

He reminded me of how in the Bible, Joseph is referred to as Mary's husband, even though the marriage hadn't been consummated. But, legally, they were bound together.

I was understanding this imperfectly; there was some deeper, spiritual truth behind what He was saying, but I wasn't grasping it. What I did understand was that I was absolutely His, and that way of belonging to Jesus was a done deal.

"Husband," I named Him, shyly, and I felt His tender love of me. It's perfectly clear that I am very young at understanding this. I wouldn't wonder if, in some way, I will be growing more and more deeply into the truth of what this means for the entirety of my life in Jesus.

Then began this rough time, where I was intensely critical of every little thing I did, thought or felt. It was agonizing. Shame welled up in me at every turn. It was as though I were frozen in shame, self-judgment and fear. It was crippling.

I criticized and lashed out at myself at every turn, because of this intense pressure of trying, somehow, to live up to what I had learned. I was terrified that if I didn’t pull myself together and become perfect immediately, pronto, Jesus would regret teaching me this lesson. Everything I did or felt seemed wrong. I ever wondered if it was too much of a burden for me yet- if my healing wasn't strong enough to help me sort through everything that was coming up for me.

Suddenly, I realized what was happening to me- it always happens to me, after Jesus takes me a little deeper into Himself. I always end up seeing all my imperfections, and how far I am from ever earning what Jesus gives me, and for a while, I revert to old ways of lashing out at myself. There’s always this period of confusion and distress.

And I remembered that Jesus is faithful through all the confusion, and that the dust would settle, and I would be left with what was true, I would be left with Him.

A lot of my anxiety left me then, and I relaxed into Jesus and His comforting love. When I felt my imperfections and my distress, I handed them over to Him, and tried just to notice them and not get worked up.

It continued rough, though, for a while. All night, in fact. I didn't sleep well. I woke in the morning, and Jesus was there. He had been there all night, even through the worst parts.

I stood at the open door, and I said shyly to Him, "My Jesus, I love Thee, I know I am Thine," and He put His arm around my shoulders and drew me close to Him.

"In vain I attempt to describe what I feel,
The language of mortals or angels would fail;
My Jesus is precious, my soul's in a flame,
I'm raised to a rapture while praising his name.

I find him in singing, I find him in prayer,
In sweet meditation he always is near;
My constant companion, O may we ne'er part!
All glory to Jesus, he dwells in my heart."

- Caleb Jarvis Taylor, Sacred Harp 1803

February 16, 2012 Bulls of Bashan

I went for a walk; I had a driving need to walk with Jesus.

I had listened, the day before to the first half of Handel's Messiah, so I stood in the driveway, wondering if I should listen to the second half or not- which contains the songs illustrating His Passion. I was listening with my inner ear to Him.

He drew me forward, so I did listen to those songs, and as soon as I did, it was confirmed. I've never been so deeply drawn into that experience. It mattered to me far more than it had ever mattered before, because of the way in which I belong to Him, because I'm His, everything which happened to Jesus means everything to me.

"And the Lord..." sang the chorus and I almost stopped short. They meant Yahweh- they meant, the Father. "And the Lord laid on Him..." They meant His Begotten, Beloved Son, the Holy One of God. "And the Lord laid on Him the iniquity..."

And then I did stop. I stopped walking entirely: "And the Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all."

The Father laid the iniquity of us all on His only begotten Son. When I started walking again, I could hardly walk straight.

I was drunk on Jesus the entire time. He had me in His arms the entire time. It got to the part where they taunted Him as Jesus was hanging on the cross, and I thought, "They are like beasts, like raving beasts," and that line from the psalm came immediately to my mind: "the bulls of Bashan have surrounded me, I can count all my bones..."

I thought I couldn't take it anymore, not any more of it. "Why, why why?" I cried out to Him.

I felt Jesus behind me and put His arms around my waist, sure and strong and almost burning like gold. I physically placed my hand on my belly in wonder. He put His head close to mine, and Jesus said to me that they had always done thus to His prophets; they had killed and treated His prophets in such a way, and that the Scriptures had to be fulfilled in the way they were written.

Jesus said that my life also must be fulfilled according to the Scriptures and this filled me with fear, because I thought He meant I had to be martyred and I felt His tender love and His tender humor at this, my first reaction.

I felt His assurance that what was written about me- about us, His people- was something marvelous and good beyond belief- that, in fact, I was already living it out as it had been intended. Anyway, He Himself is the Word of God. My life is fulfilled according to Him, to what He writes- the book of the Life of the Lamb, as it were.

You are My story, Jesus told me tenderly, a few moments ago, when I was thinking about my stories and how they reflected Him.

Aren't you glad I began teaching you about Myself as the Risen Christ? He asked me, last night, with such loving humor.

"I love You when You were on the earth," I said, passionately loyal to Him as He was walking the earth, having no beauty that we should desire Him. "I love You any way You are! I love You as the Word of the Father and I love You as Jesus of Nazareth and I love You as the Risen, the triumphant, the glorified Christ. And yes!" I said, feeling my passion and love sweep through me. "I love that You have taught me this."

Because I couldn't be to Jesus what I am, if He had not been risen to glory. I could not have new life in Him, otherwise. Because He is the Risen Christ, that is why we can be given to Him as a new creation, as His cherished one, His sister, His spouse.


"O God, we meditate on Your unfailing love as we worship in Your Temple. As Your name deserves, O God, You will be praised to the ends of the earth. Your strong right hand is filled with victory."

-Psalm 48:9-10