I remember reading a book in college called Jesus With Dirty Feet. It talked about Jesus in a way that made sense to me. Instead of a high and lofty man with white robes, it painted a picture of a man that would answer the phone when you needed somebody to speak to, rub a sore foot, or laugh with you until you cried.
During my years in the christian church, I had a very hard time with the people I encountered, as well as the spirit of which the message of ‘salvation’ was to be taught. A lot of the things I witnessed were simply unpleasant and driven by a spirit of fear that didn’t resonate with me.
I hit a crossroads in my life, where I realized that much of my life was controlled by fear. It started as a quest for authenticity; being willing to be my authentic self, even if it meant facing insecurities – or other unfounded fears.
When you’ve lived a life that resonated with fear, stepping outside of it will feel like a wave of relief poured over your life.
Yet all of the joy and happiness I found did not satisfy me. This was where another intersection of my faith began.
I had a very hard time looking at the lives of christians I knew, because – quite frankly – their lives seemed miserable, tame, and socially-retarded bubbles of people that I wanted nothing to be like – TobyMac was the exception.
If there was all of this claim of good news and hope, why did it seem so stale, lifeless, and outdated?
I was certain that the christian church was little more than an outdated relic of the past; used for societal control of weak minds.
…and it is.
However, even a rusty bucket can carry a gallon of water.
I began to think deeply about the prospect of there being a ‘loving god’ that would step in the way of my death. At first, I fought the idea of this needing to exist; thinking that nothing I’ve done could be worthy of eternal damnation…
Those were those old fears getting stirred up again. “We’re either dead – or alive.” The concept of hell didn’t make sense to me.
“The mind is its own place – and in it can make heaven a hell, or hell a heaven.”
I came to realize that our own “Kingdom” of heaven is already here – with the people we love and the times we share.
Things didn’t add up in my spirit. Yes, you have one.
That was another major gripe I carried in the christian church, is a fear and unwillingness to touch topics that delve into the metaphysical. There’s a reason christians are losing the spiritual battle – because they don’t believe in going there now.
For weeks now, I have spent hours in meditation, searching for answers that would satisfy my soul and thirst.
My image of Jesus seemed to resonate a lot more with a guy that would smoke a joint by Lake Merritt, and talk to his friends about the love all of us have inside of us. Jesus drank wine…and the one that I met this morning had a joint in his hand.
For several weeks, I have stopped by Lake Merritt to feed a homeless woman who sat by the water. The first time I met her, she asked me if I had any spare change. It happened to be her lucky day that I had not one, but two breakfast sandwiches.
“Thank you for feeding the poor”
I don’t usually offer anything to the homeless, so I made a mental note that I was giving to the ‘poor’ but not ‘homeless’. Somehow that made me feel better. She corrected that the following morning.
“Thank you for feeding the homeless.”
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not charity, I am counted as ringing brass or a clanging cymbal.
Yesterday, I was smoking a cigarette (I smoke. Sam liked purple cadillacs. Deal.) and I witnessed and I watched a mother/son walk past Sister J, pointing and shouting at her. The son pointed his hand and yelled at her.
Immediately, I packed a bag of food and went down to the water to share with her. Inside was a $20 and a few miscellaneous food items (thank you, Azar!). It was the first time I had stopped to sit down and chat with her.
She said the people passing by were yelling at her to stop smoking, which was the original reason I saw her in the first place.
As I prepared to go, she asked me if I had $0.75 for a meal.
“I have much better for you than that”
I slid her the bag, and her eyes seemed to explode in her head. Mouth trembling, she reached up to embrace and hold me. I dove into her arms and held her.
We hugged again before parting ways.
This morning, I went down again to visit with her. This time, I stopped to eat my meal with her, instead of taking it to the bench where I usually meditate.
We talked about life, God, Jesus, and love. She offered some advice for my acne (seaweed soap – bought on the spot) and smoked a cigarette.
I realized that I had never gotten to know her name. So, I asked her (for the third time) and she told me her name was Sister Jane.
All of my younger notions of Jesus were framed in a way that didn’t resonate with my spirit. “What the mind rejects, the heart cannot accept.” were words that have carried me for several years.
I believed that Jesus would look a lot more like me than the white-robed misrepresentation I saw on religious adornments; a big smile, loving arms, giving somebody a massage in the back alley of a club, while telling them how wonderful they are – just as they are, without judgement.
That’s the kind of friend I’d like to have. Hell, that’s the kind of King I’d like to serve.
In our culture, we’ve lost a of lot of what it means to be a leader. Our politicians are dirty shells that pollute and conquer with an abundance of corruption. This fractures our ability to believe that a leader can, in fact, remain with integrity.
This morning, I was thinking of the love and life that Steve and Azar have given me. Even though they aren’t always here in presence, their words and love have reshaped me.
I began to realize that the story of Jesus has been immensely polluted, distorted, and made into a vice of a control machine…yet it still resonated with my spirit.
“I stand at the door and knock”
Today, the veil of understanding was torn from my mind, and I finally made a connection between my mind and my heart that message behind the cross is one that I can stand and live by.
There was a point I realized that led me to confront all of the fear and pride that I had accumulated around my notion of ‘asking Jesus into my heart’. Yet, I had to reconcile the fact that my mind allowed me to dive deeply into metaphysical concepts like astral travel. What did I have to lose?
I prayed, with more conviction than I have ever had in my entire life. I told Jesus that if there were ever a time to reveal himself to me, now was the time to do it.
…and he came. He came in my visions, dreams, meditations, reading, writing, and strangers in the street.
I reached the point in my conviction that I no longer felt the need to stick my hand in his pierced side in order to believe. I was ready to take the leap of faith (full assurance in the heart) and ask him to reside inside of my spirit.
So, I did.
Joy. Joy. Joy. Joy. Joy. Joy. Joy. Joy. Joy. Joy. Joy.