I participated in a silent retreat this past weekend. Before going any further, I would just like to mention how incredibly helpful it is every once in a while to just shut the hell up and listen to your heart. Without further adieu…
I write you: To share with you an image, a vision really, of an encounter I had with Jesus. It was in passing, that is to say fleeting, as was its emotional hold, but the meaning was both profound and charming. It all took place in a small courtyard, and there in it was a crucifix. The cross was rather low, as it were, and very close to human scale if but a tad smaller. In all its likeness to that of us, and seeming to breathe with each rocking motion of my shivering self, I saw but the faint turning of his head to look at me. In the instance of a moment I managed to catch the thought: how would I react in such a moment? I first imagined dropping to my knees, even prostration. I decided this was not at all genuine nor respectful. Neither was it genuine to my modes of expression, and in this way not respectful, nor was it respectful to turn away from a gaze so intended to find mine. Then, with a sudden impulsiveness I could only consider like that of a child, I stepped up to the Lord and gently held his face. I would like it mentioned that throughout my entire life, I have seldom considered myself a decent consoler of Jesus. My life has been far from admirable, and even more so when I consider all the missed opportunities of good I could have done. Yet here I was, before my crucified Lord, and if I could not bring him down from there, whatever little I could do to ameliorate his suffering, I figured I could do in holding some little part of him. As if to both receive and bless the gesture, he kissed my hand. It was such a viscerally moving scene for me. All at once I was flooded by such humility. After all, it was I, at the very least, who should be kissing him, not him to me. Yet would I have ever? I think it more likely that I would have lost myself in the whole mess of worthiness when the very symbol before me was of a love and worthiness itself. The more I held him, the more I understood the gravity of our exchange. For it was he who came first, so in a way it made sense that he should kiss first; He was first and so was first to love. However, I would posit that his love was not just principle in chronology but most importantly in form. For such is his love that it encompasses all loves, and not solely for the sake of love but just as equally for my sake too. That I in a genuine response to the cross received a genuine response back.
I sort of fell back into reality and found myself before the crucifix no different than before my imagining. As I mentioned before it was profound in it’s own little way. It was everything I need to experience as I continue to accept his love to heal my brokenness. This is not in question. The lesson I must walk away from is that before me stood not a face looking at me, but a head cast aside. Not a body that could ever be consoled because the act had come and gone; Jesus (historically) only died once. Yet none of it was any less real, and the take away is that not always will the interior align with the external reality. Therefore I must accept Christ as he is, not as I imagine him; his love as he gives it, not as I would desire it given; and my life as he wills it, not as I want.
There is no doubt in my mind of the encounter. But the encounter was not the vision. It was the realization that Christ loves me, and he loves me particularly. My life is uniquely my own, and with it I will choose to love him so.