June 04, 2009

Encounter With Jesus

I had a strange thought come to me the other day. Before I tell you what it was, though, I should mention that God has not been very personal for me. Some people talk about Jesus as if he was their best friend, a buddy whom they hang out with. Some people really do walk and talk with God, like in The Shack. They often pray directly to Jesus, which I never do, although I suppose it's okay since Jesus and God are one.

I think part of it has to do with my seminary training, which taught me well how to study God and talk about God, but not so much how to have a relationship with God that is personal and intimate. And part of it is my own reflections and my own experiences, which have led me to think of God as more like the Force in Star Wars than a person.

The strange thought came to me as I was sitting in the chair by the window, where I often read my Bible and pray in the morning before anyone else is awake. (Well, except for the neighbor who's always up early, warming up his full-size pickup for twenty minutes in his driveway right outside my window.) There are actually two chairs by this window, and the other day, when I looked at the empty chair, I wondered what it would be like if Jesus came in and sat down there.

I imagine that, first of all, I would be startled to have my present yet impersonal God appear in such a personal, tangible way. I'm pretty sure that, at first, I wouldn't know what to say. This, despite the fact that I do pray to God often. So probably, Jesus would speak first: "Good morning."

"Um... Good morning."


"You could offer me a glass of water ... or a beer."

"Um, yeah. Okay. I'll get you some water, we don't have any beer."

"Look again."

It would probably take awhile to get past the awkwardness, but I don't think Jesus would mind. In fact, he'd probably chuckle. After all, he would know--he does know--how socially awkward I am at times.

I imagine that I would ask Jesus to talk to me, to teach me, but that Jesus would instead ask me to talk to him, to tell him what's been going on with me. "What's your story," he'd say to me. I'd tell him, and he'd respond by confirming what I say, or simply raising one eyebrow, if he could tell I was holding something back. I'd realize that he already knew everything I was telling him, and yet he would keep encouraging me to talk, and I'd keep talking to him, because it would feel good to talk. Somehow, he'd even get me to talk about the stuff that I would want to hold back; and I'd be surprised, because one, I'd find it hard to believe I was spilling my guts so openly, and two, I'd find his lack of judgment so refreshing and liberating.

Eventually, being a seminary-trained pastor, I'd ask Jesus questions about christology. "Did my professors get it right?" I'd wonder. However, I think Jesus would dismiss the question, insisting that there are more important things to be concerned with. He'd continue asking me about me, and I'd continue to talk. And somehow, even though he wouldn't say a whole lot, I'd become aware of the life that I have through him, and the gift he gave me.

I'm not sure where the conversation would end up, but when Jesus would get up to leave, I'd realize that most of my questions were still unanswered; especially the questions about christology. But I'd be okay with that. Having had this personal encounter with Jesus, I'd be more convinced than ever of my role in life, my calling, and I'd know that I could live and even celebrate the questions.

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