The Window-Jesus

Yesterday was tough. I was having what can probably best be described as a “lover’s tiff” with God, and I was at church. I knew things would get better and that, what’s more, I was probably overreacting, but at the moment I was still angry, and being in a place with a whole lot more of God’s people, most of whom aren’t currently fighting with Him (or admitting it, anyway), and a place where, what’s more, I’m in some sort of leadership and it’s my job to encourage people in their own journeys with God, just didn’t quite sit right.

We sang “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” which I had sung with gusto just the Sunday before in the service at Then-Church, thinking of all the great things God had done in and through my parents and the people there, and I knew it was still true sitting in Now-Church with the weight of the world (or whatever) on my shoulders, but I couldn’t see or feel it, even though my mind assented, and I started to cry. I don’t think I had ever cried in a service at Now-Church until that moment, but once I started, I couldn’t stop.

The Scripture passage was Isaiah 49.1-7, about the Servant (or Jesus) being chosen and frustrated and made to be a light for the Gentiles. The Servant says,

3 He said to me, “You are my servant,
Israel, in whom I will display my splendor.”
4 But I said, “I have labored in vain;
I have spent my strength for nothing at all.

It felt so familiar, and then so did the words immediately following:

Yet what is due me is in the LORD’s hand,
and my reward is with my God.”

5 And now the LORD says—
he who formed me in the womb to be his servant
to bring Jacob back to him
and gather Israel to himself,
for I am[a] honored in the eyes of the LORD
and my God has been my strength—
6 he says:
“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant
to restore the tribes of Jacob
and bring back those of Israel I have kept.
I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

Those verses are about someone much greater than I, the sandals of whom I am unworthy to untie. But in the Christian church we’re taught that we are now the representatives of that greater One on earth, and so I don’t think it’s too presumptuous to identify with them a little myself, even though I know salvation itself doesn’t come from me. Anyway. Hearing those words read didn’t exactly comfort me, but almost did–in a conflicting sort of way, where again, I was assenting with my mind, and recognising the God against whom I’ve been railing actually has put Himself in our place and known the frustration and grief of being human . . . but also of not quite being ready to relinquish my anger and not quite being able to. I was still in the “labor in vain” and “spending my strength on nothing at all” phase, and just because the resolution to that comes immediately in the next line in the prophecy-poem doesn’t mean it happens that way in real life, for me or my suffering friends or Jesus, either.

At Now-Church we have this stained glass window of Jesus behind the altar in the chapel where the early Sunday service meets. In the late fall, the light shines through it in just such a way that by the time we go forward for communion, the white parts of Jesus’ robes are glowing so much that all I can think of is the Transfiguration. I love that, and I always think, Sometime this week I’ll bring my camera in here at this time and photograph this,” but I never remember. And maybe it’s better that way. It’s a special moment I have with Jesus, even though I know He isn’t the window and it isn’t Him. I look up at that glass face and still am comforted.

The winter has now progressed enough that if the Window-Jesus’ clothes still become “white as the light” at some point during the day, that point is not during the early Sunday morning service, so I stared at that window and wished for the image to glow, but it never did, and it was kind of how I felt about me and about God right then–looking at that picture of Jesus was still a help, because it reminded me that God really doesn’t ask us to go through anything He wasn’t willing to go through Himself. But the knowledge was not glowing for me right then–it was just in my head, not in my heart and my life at the moment–kind of dormant and thin, like a winter sun. I felt like God was trying to reach out to me, but maybe this time He was on one side of the window and I was on the other, and even though I knew I would want Him to comfort me sometime, it might be at the cost of shattering glass, and I was feeling enough had been broken for a little while.

I hung onto the knowledge and truth in my head because it was all I had at the moment, and I managed to stop crying for communion, which I took even though God and I were fighting, because I knew without that Body and Blood of Christ I would be utterly lost. As soon as the service was over, however, I shook the bemused Pastor Barry’s hand and dashed into my office to hide. Fortunately or unfortunately, two different women from the church found me in there, and each comforted me in her own way; maybe Jesus got on my side of the glass after all. It’s what He’s about, I guess. I have to say if there’s one thing I’ve realised since my car accident, it’s that the people of Now-Church are my family now. If this same thing had happened a year ago, I would’ve probably defaulted to people at Then-Church, but this year, outside of my family, all the first people I contacted were friends from Now-Church. That’s how it should be, I think, and I’m so grateful for that.

After some venting and some hugs and a trip to Lowe’s to buy some seeds I had forgotten to buy during the week for one of our Sunday school workshops, my tear ducts got under control and I was able to lead our Sunday school intro for the day without saying, “Hey kids–I know we’re talking about following Jesus and being His disciples in this unit but it’s hard, so you might want to rethink that,” which is kind of what I had been feeling like saying when I first pulled into the parking lot that morning. I did, during the prayer time, tell them that although following Jesus is always right, sometimes it is hard and I would like it if they would pray for me. I’m not sure any of them got that, but maybe some of the parents and teachers who had been down there did.

In the afternoon, eight teens, one other adult and I went to a nursing home down the street to play Wii-Bowling with some of the residents. The residents were delighted and I think the kids were kind of delighted with themselves–that they had done something together that wasn’t about them. So had I. Maybe things would start looking up more quickly than I anticipated. Like looking up at that window.

 

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2 thoughts on “The Window-Jesus

  1. I observe your walk with a combination of hope and heartache. If you are not derailed (and it is my most fervent desire that you are not) it is you, or someone like you, that will be of the most service to God. What comfort are the words of encouragement from leaders that have never suffered? How superficial is the champion of faith who has never had their own challenged? What promise is there in the story of the person who had a comfortable life and went on to more and more success? It is not the Psalms of praise that hold comfort, but those of heartache–those where David begs God to speak, to reach out, to restore their relationship. I can not be helped by someone who hasn’t known suffering, because they won’t understand. Isn’t that the beauty of Christ, someone who *lived* our lives and our pain.

    All that being said, I catch myself wondering…how can Jesus, who was abandoned by his friends, alone when he most needed God, who sweated blood, how does *he* watch in silence. Ignoring for the moment the Trinity conversation in detail, I can understand (kinda) God standing aside and saying, “My will and justice will be done…when I choose it to be”. But our ADVOCATE, our Saviour, he must remember the sense of devastation when he himself cried out, “My God, Abba, why have you forsaken me”…and was met with silence at his cry. What parent watches his child suffer and doesn’t reach out with a touch, a hand, a hug? Having to face consequences…I get that. Would I ever let someone I love face attack after attack and hear them cry out to me and not respond? I’m pretty sure my circumstances answer that. So why doesn’t God love me like I love my dad? Why can he watch me suffer and not speak. Again, it isn’t the suffering, but rather the silence that is fatal to the soul. And the faith.

    • I think you are right about that silence. I confess not to have TRULY ever experienced that. There have been moments of disconnect, and I hesitate to say this because I’m scared of experiencing it myself, though I know I (and you) would not be the only one, but not the feeling of total abandonment. I don’t understand it, but you are right that people who have suffered have, I think, the most to offer broken ones like us.

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