Someone recently asked me to define what a personal relationship with Jesus is like. I knew I would be utterly unable to define it, for to do so would be attempting to put boundaries around something that defies definition. I am also not able to assign properties and attributes to it in any manner that makes any sense in a left-brained analytical way. I thought, however, I might be able to hint at its edges and shade in a few emotions, shape and mold something that would leave an impression that might invite them into that relationship to discover its true shape for themselves. And in that attempt, I also knew that I would fail. Written words and paragraphs and pages are just not large enough to contain it. I chuckle that I even tried, but here goes ...
Dream House of my soul that I call the Café -- a comfy place to spend some time and people-watch. It's busy and noisy. I like it that way. It is one of my favorite places. The best table is in the corner between the fireplace and the potted tree. From here I can gaze out the windows or watch my friends who pass through or spend time here.
I think I like it here so much because I am comforted by distractions. My mind enjoys flitting from one thought to another like a butterfly floating from one flower to the next in the morning sun. I feel no need to focus -- no need for a purpose or a destination. I have no idea which flower I am going to land on next. I am free to lose myself in the journey, lusting to wander from thought to thought, from face to face, from dream to dream, from vision to vision.
I like it, too, because I can spend time in this room while my body does other things. On the outside I might be trail riding, or stopped at a light, or walking through the store, or sitting in a class. Or I might be relaxing in a coffee shop at a corner table mirroring the one in my soul, writing, reading, listening, observing.
My friends are here. I invite them often to come and spend time with me. Jesus is here, too. He often sits directly across from me on the opposite side of the table. But it hasn't always been that way. Oh, sure, He has been here all the time. It's just that I didn't stop to pay attention to Him, to listen to Him, to actually have a conversation with Him. I knew all manner of things about Him but never really knew Him. I had read his Book. I was deeply involved in studies and discussions of it. But I really didn't know who He was in real life as a person. Looking back, it was a little like trying to get to know someone by reading their biographies when they are seated right across from you, smiling, talking softly to get your attention, waiting to be noticed.
I had been told that the place to experience Jesus was in my Quiet Room -- you know, light candles, focus on the Divine, meditate, seek an inner peace, all that. That's not bad advice, it's just that it wasn't working for me. I wasn't motivated to find the time to seek His presence in that room. Besides that, my brain fidgets. It squirms and wiggles and complains like a child held in mommy's lap who would rather run outside and play.
When I first started noticing Him, I could hardly hear Him. I could not extract His voice from the jumble of all the other voices in this noisy room. But with practice and repeated visits, I have learned to distinguish His voice from all the others. Now, I suppose it is a little like a mother who loses track of her child in a crowded subway station and is able to pull the tiny "Mommy?" out of the cacophony of other voices while a hundred other mommies in the station ignore it. She knows that is the voice she has been listening for but probably wouldn't be able to tell you why she knows. I can't tell you why I know either. And maybe that's a thread I'll leave dangling for another time.
There are hundreds of things I love and adore about Jesus. Yup. Another dangling thread. But one of my favorites is His persistent patience. It's not a twiddle-your-fingers-while-you-wait patience. It is not passive. It is an active, anticipatory patience. He gives me an assignment. He waits anticipating my response. And it doesn't appear that He waits for the "right" response. He appears to be pleased with any response He can work with -- which is nearly all of them. And if I don't respond? He loves me anyway always anticipating more will come -- looking forward to my working closer with Him the next time around. He knows I want to know what it takes for me to become more fully human -- to become more of what I was created to be in the first place. That quest alone draws me closer to him.
"Tell me more!" I plead. Then I listen.
I am a little ashamed to admit it, and please don't spread this around, but I used to think the waiter was God. I kept telling him to do things for me, to do things for my friends, and to bring things to me. And then I would wonder why he seldom brought anything I wanted back from the kitchen. Once that finally dawned on me, my entire direction changed -- it rotated around from asking God to do things for me to my asking what I can do for Him.
"Where are you at work here, Lord? How can I help?" And from my comfortable chair at the corner table I would respond to an assignment He gave me for a friend sitting with me at the table. Sometimes I might even get up and go to a friend at another table. But even that was a stretch. I like the corner table. I like sitting here because my back is to a wall and I know no one is watching me from behind or from the sides.
But just the other day as I returned to my corner chair after completing a small, easy assignment, I noticed that Jesus wasn't sitting in His usual spot directly across from me. He was seated at a table more toward the middle of the room. The chair across from Him was pulled away from the table and slightly askew inviting me to join Him. There's that anticipatory patience again. Sigh. I smile. I know He is tugging me to a new place in my life, drawing me out into a new adventure. I hate middle tables! I can't stand them! But I also can't stand not being close enough to hear His voice. I roll my eyes jokingly. Reluctantly, I gather up my things, plod over to the center table and settle uneasily into the open chair. I feel like there are a thousand eyes looking at me from my back and in through the Café windows just waiting to pounce on my appearance, my words and actions criticizing, disagreeing, and judging. I feel itchy.
I ask, "So, why out here in the middle where you know it drives me nuts?"
And, of course, there was no answer. All He did was motion with His eyes out the window to the cashier who was checking out my groceries. I'd do anything to get away from the center table so I ventured outside. It was Kristin. She is one of my usual cashiers who I usually just ignore, but this time my eyes were opened.
"Kristin! You cut and colored your hair! It looks great on you! I LOVE it! "
A little startled, she stopped weighing my bananas, smiled broadly, and replied, "Man! You just made my day! Thanks!"
And as she held my gaze in hers for several seconds, I saw the glisten of moisture gathering at the corner of her eyes -- moisture that never quite formed a tear, but told me much more about her hair than I needed to know at that moment.
I interrupted with a simple "Your welcome. My pleasure." and continued to smile and make eye-contact, now knowingly. She knew that I knew what was piling up about to run down her cheek.
And as I was carrying my things out to load up the panniers on my bike, I looked back in through the window of the Café to where Jesus was seated. He was smiling the same broad smile as Kristin's, and the same tear was in the corner of His eye. And while nodding His head proudly, He gave me a firm and hardy "thumbs up". I still have no idea what He is up to in her life, but I know that I played a miniscule part in it.
And then, quite unexpectedly, I became overwhelmed. I wanted to just sit on the sidewalk next to the bike rack and weep. I wanted to cry out, "I am a nobody! I am the tiniest speck of short-lived flesh amongst billions of others! Who am I that I am allowed to be in your presence, Lord?"
Being in His presence is a profoundly humbling experience. It is an honor and a privilege to be given a one-on-one audience with someone who is my spiritual leader, my confidante, my guide through life, my Lord, my Savior. I have an audience with the One who died so that I may live -- the One who rose again that I may be in His employ as his servant. He is the One who knows every thought before I think it, knows my deepest motivations, knows me better than I do, and knows who I was created to be -- and He chooses to spend time with me in my Café! I will never quite get used to that and I pray I never take His presence for granted. I will never deserve it.
And somewhere deep within that humility I felt joy. I felt a little bit of the Divine Joy that comes from spreading His Love. And when that little drop of Joy leaks out of my soul and into my body it overwhelms me. It's the Joy that causes you to leap and sing, to praise and worship, to kick up your heels and fill the air with thanksgiving. It causes you to rejoice in a way that causes those around you to sit up and notice -- causes them to think, "I don't know what he's on, but whatever it is I want some!"
And as I rode out of the parking lot I looked back into the Café at Jesus. I whispered lovingly, "Thank you." And I realized in that moment that what I just saw in Kristin was His reflection. And I prayed that she could see His reflection in me as well.