Finding Jesus, or just Seeing Things?

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Last month, Jesus bought me a latte.  A few days ago, I saw Jesus’ eyes.

Did you know that Jesus is still around?  Or is it that my brain turns certain moments over in my head, and soon enough, something clicks in my environment, and poof! out pops a fictitious “God moment”?

Surely, in this, the 21st century, someone with a degree from a top-tier institution wouldn’t be so superstitious and mentally weak as to believe that there’s some kind of mysterious power at work in this big old universe.

A cynical but seeking friend of mine, when I told him about the latte (read on for the story), said, “Ah ha!  So, who’s to say whether it’s God or not, but you were out there, making yourself available, putting yourself in the position to encounter something.  You weren’t forcing ‘God”s hand, or demanding something of the universe, but you didn’t sit at home alone, praying for a miracle and refusing to move either.”

On my birthday this year, I had a very early meeting.  My husband was out of town, and I was pulling especially long hours working on a big surprise (reno project) in his absence.  I was a little bit down the super early, cloudy morning as I drove to work, feeling like I didn’t quite have enough community in this place yet to really enjoy my birthday (how like little children we remain!).  Praying Complaining in my car, I said, “Couldn’t you send me a birthday gift?  You’re supposed to be my comfort and Rock.  I want a gift.  Let me know you’re there.”  (this is nothing like Gideon and the fleece, or Moses and the burning bush–those were people with REAL questions and REAL doubts)  I stopped by my favorite coffee shop on my way downtown, and the owner asked me what brought me there so early; I told him about the early meeting and bribing myself with a latte for my birthday.  He insisted that the coffee be on the house.  When I got back to my car, I shed a tear.  Maybe it was Jesus, maybe it was just small town Southern Hospitality, but I knew that this really was a community in which I was beginning to belong, and that God hadn’t left me alone.

And as for last week, and Jesus’ eyes: on a retreat, we were invited to enter into the narratives of Holy Week in a new way–we read and reread John’s passion stories, and listened to creative writings telling the same story from another perspective.  Good Friday was told from the perspective of a guard, and in his reflection, he returned again and again to Jesus’ eyes–when Jesus had first looked at him on Palm Sunday, during the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, again as the guard kept the people from Jesus while they marched slowly through the city on Friday, toward Golgatha, and finally, when the guard offers Jesus sour wine, the last action taken from the cross, in John’s Gospel.  I found myself envying the guard–he looked into God’s eyes.  He got to see Jesus.  Can you imagine?  I thought, “I want to see Jesus.  I want to look into Jesus’ eyes.  They say that eyes are the window of the soul; what would it have been like to look at God?”  A large part of my work is visiting–and I’ve been working on being more present during these visits, listening more closely to my parishioners in between the lines, and trying to hear how God might be guiding them.  I visited someone last week, and as they held my hand and looked deep into my eyes, I knew I was seeing a glimpse of what Jesus’ eyes looked like.

Is this all just hooey?  An overactive imagination attuned to its environment, making up connections in a desperate attempt to create a Higher Power?  Could be.  I can’t prove that it isn’t.  What I do know is that there’s a lot more to life than meets the eye.  People can indeed surprise you–in good ways and in bad ways–and sometimes things happen that are just a little bit outside the realm of explanation.  Maybe these little witnesses from the last few weeks of my everyday life aren’t from a divine source, but one can’t conclusively rule it out, either.

We’ve lost of a lot of wonder in our modern lives. Controlling our use of time with electric lights, medicines, and machinery makes us less attuned to the mystical moments that happen to us and through us every day.  Things like human love will always have a bit of mystery to them, as do myriad other aspects of our existence, if we let ourselves wonder and let ourselves let go of the illusion that we can control every eventuality with the power of our intellect (it didn’t go so well last time around, see Genesis 11).

Let some mystery sneak into your life this Lent, this spring.  As the world starts to come alive again, marvel at the miracle of life and growth, the wonder of learning something that doesn’t come from a book and on which you won’t be tested.  Maybe make a bit of room and pay a bit of attention to how God might be sneaking around the corners of your life, calling to you.

The Unknown

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On Tuesday, here in Columbia, South Carolina, we began to batten down the proverbial hatches for Leon, the Snowpocalypse.  Most children were out of school (though the weather didn’t start till after school time, Atlanta’s is a cautionary tale), the roads were treated, the university and the government were closed.

Among those of us who gathered at work, diverse attitudes abounded.  I was soon struck by the variety of responses to the same news, and realized that a bit of what we were experiencing was how each of us–where ever the impending ice-meggedon found us emotionally that morning–dealt with change and uncertainty.  Of course, no sleep the night before, or a big deadline, or experience driving in snowy weather surely affected our outlooks as well, I was struck that the way we respond to small things may inform the way we respond to large uncertainties in life as well (then again, a death in the family and a possible snow day are rather different things).

There were those who greeted the possibility as a gift–an unexpected opportunity for something different, an adventure, a change of pace, a tool to knock us out of the “norm” and into whatever the day or the weather might have in store for us.

A few others of us looked at the sunshine, the empty, dry roads, and slivered our eyes, “Is there really weather coming?” we asked the skies.  The existence of the storm was doubtful, its effect unproven.  These folk were unimpressed-till-snowed-in; crossing the bridge if it happened to materialize out of the sunny skies, pragmatically focusing on the task at hand till then.

Though there weren’t any in our offices yesterday, I suspect (judging from the empty OJ, milk, and bread shelves at supermarkets) that another significant group was gripped with fear of the unknown.  Would it come?  Would it not-come?  What would happen?  The anxiety of an uncertain future was debilitating, and so they busied themselves laying in supplies.

For a Christian, there are bits of truth in each of these life-attitudes.  We need not fear or be anxious about the future, but we ought to be wise as serpents, shrewd in our decisions and prepared for unexpected events (thinking of the virgins and their oil lamps).  Of course, we ought not run about as a chicken sans-head; being so preoccupied with the unknowable possibilities of the future as to forget the task we’ve been set to here and now isn’t for the best interest of our earthly companions or for the glory of God’s kingdom.  Finally, life is indeed a joyful adventure, though hopefully we can remember that when the weather (or a day) is unremarkable as well.