I met him most recently a few days ago, at the introductory session of a psychotherapy course. The facilitator’s ballerina flats tapped in time to the mundane flow of questions, which came from a large group of participants. No matter how many times she heard variations of the same questions, her replies were respectful and caring.
I met him in the story a friend told me, about a lift he gave to an old woman who lived alone in a derelict farmhouse, without any family or friends. The unwell old woman urinated in his car, and burst into tears because of the shame she felt. However, when my friend was on his hands and knees cleaning the upholstery, surrounded by stinking filth, a moment of awareness transformed the event. It changed from something disgusting into a moment of profound insight, about what it means to offer selfless service.
To see and to serve Christ in others is not only to perceive the loveable things within them. It is also to see the horror, the suffering, and the unloveable. In short, it is to see the Cross — our own cross, in the body of the other. To see Christ is to reach out to that cross, as we are reached out to by the Beloved who hangs upon it.
I think about the people I love and it’s easy to see the things about them that inspire my love. Their strength, their determination, their gentleness, their creativity, their kindness. I look at the people I do not love and feel the things that provoke me to anger, anxiety, and disgust.
I look a little deeper, and what I actually see are the shadows within myself, projected upon other people. In those moments of negativity, I am objectifying others. I am reducing them to a large cinema screen, upon which my internal doubts and demons are given free reign.
When Christ said that we should love our enemies, first and foremost he was speaking about ourselves. Christ gives me permission to end the war that is raging within my own self. He leads me to the hidden places of my life, the thoughts and memories I am most afraid to approach.
He throws open the locked rooms of my psyche and says, “Let us walk here, together. Know yourself, and know Me.” Christ, the Light of the World, promises that he will illuminate every pocket of darkness inside me. He reminds me not to be afraid.
Let me urge you, in the same way I urge myself, to meet Christ today. Not in an article or a pamphlet. Not even in your Bible, which is the textual body of Christ but has been (throughout history) so easily twisted by human intellect, or lack thereof, into a weapon as much as the manifesto of his Good News.
Meet Christ, first and foremost, in your brokenness. Meet him in your secret shame and the isolated darkness of your anxieties. Meet him in your pain. Meet him in your moments of revulsion and disgust. Meet him in your personal hell.
He is there, gently but insistently pursuing you, and his love is the only revolution you’ll ever need.
The purpose of this life isn’t, I feel, to seek out love. We are already surrounded by love. Love is embedded in the DNA of creation.
Rather, our task is to discover all the obstacles, the barriers, and the thick walls we have built around ourselves, which prevent us from being caught up in the free and gratuitous flow of love. That flow is what, in the Christian tradition, we call “grace”.
We must allow ourselves to become dynamic conduits for grace, and living promises of love. We must make that choice to be transformed by love, consciously and purposefully, each day of our lives. That is what I believe it means, to live a life of authentic discipleship to our Beloved Christ.