Biographical Non-Fiction posted February 12, 2012


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Jesus comes when we call

Encountering Christ

by Writingfundimension

My acceptance of Jesus Christ as Saviour was not a matter of personal choice for me. Within weeks of my birth, parents, godparents and relatives participated in a Catholic baptismal rite on my behalf. Aided by water, blessed oils and candles, the stain of sin was erased and I returned to my original identity as a child of God. Technically, Jesus and I became siblings.

In the decades following conversion, my association with Jesus consisted of receiving holy communion weekly during Catholic Mass. Our church requires us to believe the body and blood of Jesus are mystically, but concretely, invoked during the ritual of transubstantiation of wafer (host) and wine. The essence of Jesus is then transferred from priest to believer through the formal ritual of eating the host and drinking the wine.

Nothing magical happened when I consumed the host/wine. Participation in the ritual never produced voices, visions or substantive clarity as to how to fight my inner demons. My senses registered nothing more than bland bread and cheap, sweet wine. Yet I continued following the thousand-year-old ritualized requirements on the outside chance I was wrong.

Often I wondered if Jesus was reading my hidden thoughts and avoiding me for good reason. Though I never confessed this to another human being, I held a gargantuan grudge – why was Jesus allowed to explore and exhibit human emotions with impunity? Nothing he did jeopardized his holy status, unlike me whose every deed would determine my afterlife fate. The resentment grew with the years and it seemed that Jesus and I were destined to remain in a sterile dance of avoidance.

Yet deep in my heart, I yearned for the experience of a Christ who would coach me through my average, middle-class existence. Years of studying the writings of Catholic mystics convinced me that Jesus could choose a spiritual marriage with a human being. And I wondered what it would be like to have a protector who would banish accusers and hypocritical judges with a few scribblings in the sand. The scriptural Jesus seemed to me to be the kind of guy who wouldn't make a promise - 'Behold I am with you always' -  he did not intend to keep. 

For years I dallied at the edges of a radical thought: the scriptural promise of Jesus might not apply to some perfect future state. Uncomfortably I considered that it was my resistance to the beingness of Jesus Christ that kept me from entering into a deeper state of intimacy with Him. My experience with authority figures predisposed me to consider the hidden strings and unbreakable contracts inherent in a relationship between less-than-equals. And I swore to myself I would not become a holier-than-thou dork as a result of hooking up with Jesus.

Eventually, in my mid thirties, my unhealed, fractured psyche began to resist all the 'stuff' that normally calmed me, and I entered fully into despair. In the early morning hours of an especially difficult round of negative thoughts and feelings, I lit a candle in my bathroom intending to slit my wrists and bleed out in the bathtub. As I reached for my husband's razor blades, I heard a booming voice in my head say, “I Love You”. The voice was male and it was relentless: “ I Love You,” it said, over and over in my head. 

I returned to my side of the bed in a state I can only describe as horrified bliss. I rationalized the voice as a healthy part of my ego keeping me from doing something stupid. But there was a sense of authority to this voice. Further, it was not comforting. In fact, it seemed angry: “Don't you know? I Love You!”

I didn't hear the voice again that night or the next and, eventually, I chalked the experience up to imagination. I continued trying to cope alone while going through the motions of being a loyal Catholic. But eventually I ended up in another round of demeaning self-recriminations and shame. Though I had managed to leave my destructive family relationships behind physically, emotional scars remained intensely raw.

One Saturday, while my husband was occupied elsewhere, I escaped to my art studio at the back of our house. Locking the door, I sat on the floor and studied the drawings and paintings I'd framed and placed on my walls. I forced myself to study each picture despite the feelings of shame and disgust I felt at their amateur quality. A vicious voice in my head told me they were worthless pieces of garbage and I did not have any strength left to argue with it.

Discovering a talent for drawing represented one bright spot in my life. I was told I had some talent and I desperately wanted to believe I could produce something beautiful through my own hands. I framed the better pieces and hung them on the walls of my studio in defiance of a pitiless internal critic.

Huddled beneath a blanket, I sobbed for a long time. After the tears came rage and I projected it toward Jesus, the big shot star of my religious upbringing. "Convince me you're for real or get the hell out of my head," I challenged. 

This was a very scary step for me. I'd been part of a belief system my entire life that threatened damnation for doubt.  Jousting with Jesus was, potentially, a dangerous act of defiance.

Minutes passed and nothing happened. I left the room convinced it had all been a waste of time.

The next afternoon, I walked into my studio and was stopped in my tracks. My eyes went from picture to picture on the wall and I simply couldn't believe what I was seeing. Each picture had been moved off center to the same degree and the curved corners formed a uniform pattern of their own. 

I yelled for my husband to come out back and when he saw the state of the framed pictures, he told me it had to have been the wind. For a minute I considered this and then I realized that it was not the wind. Not even my husband knew, at that point, the level of my OCD compulsions. It was becoming physically uncomfortable for me to have anything in my personal environment out of order. 

Now, this is what I think is so cool about the answer that I believe Jesus sent in response to my prayer: Jesus has a sense of humor. He was saying to me, "Bev I know all about your compulsions. And I want you to know that I've got your back right where you are."  

That elegant, perfect gesture was all that I'd hoped for and more. A cookie cutter miracle would never had touched me the same way. 

In his inspiring best-seller, I Am With You Always, Dr. G. Scott Sparrow explores the subject of this type of personal encounter with Jesus. The type of experience I had invoked through my challenging prayer was an 'awakening' encounter. "Few of us, regardless of our religious beliefs," Dr. Sparrow writes, "expect to meet Christ face-to-face during our lifetimes. For various reasons, we assume that such things just do not happen to ordinary people. So it should come as no surprise to us that a person's first encounters with Christ, usually comes as quite a surprise." 

I'm sure that if I shared my experience with my pastor, Father Hobart, he would reinforce the Catholic model that a  door was opened by my family's faith. And, to an extent, he is correct.

But I don't think my prayer was answered solely because I am 'saved'. Jesus answered my prayer because he always had a soft spot for the afflicted. He knew I'd run out of options and needed an infusion of His power and grace. 

I now view my experience as a revelation of one aspect of Jesus - that of an older brother who found his kid sister crying and learned about the bully that had been harrassing her. And I believe that Jesus let me know, in a way I could understand, that he was willing to face that bully with me. 

My experiences of Jesus physical presence have continued through the years. Now, when I receive the sacraments, I sense a peace beyond anything this earth has yet offered. I know I am in the presence of Jesus and as my being relaxes into His, I feel ready to tackle my week. He was probably always there knocking on the door of my closed mind, but he waited as the gentle man He is, until I was ready to invite Him in. 



    
 
  


 

  



 



 

 


 

 


 



Recognized


This account represents my own personal, spiritual journey and in no way is intended to trivialize, or discount, the beliefs of others.

Jesus and Christ are used interchangeably here. Sorry if that creates any confusion. It reflects my belief that Jesus is the Christ.

Terms:
Catholic: A member of the Roman Catholic church.
Christ: Jesus, especially as the Messiah.
Mystic: Mysterious
OCD: Obsessive compulsive disorder.
Transubstantiation: The change in the eucharistic elements from the substance of bread and wine to the substance of the body of Christ with only the appearances of bread and wine remaining.

Quote from: I Am With You Always, True Encounters with Jesus by G. Scott Sparrow, Ed.D.

'the hour I first believed' is from the Christian hymn, Amazing Grace. John Newton was a slave boat captain who transformed his life as a result of a personal encounter with Christ.

Thank you to Bertodi for the awesome artwork: imprisoned
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

Artwork by Renate-Bertodi at FanArtReview.com

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