Jesus, why are we so afraid of you that when you come to set us free, we ask you please to leave? Is it because when you set us free from our demons you also send our herds of pigs rushing over the cliff? Is it the cost we fear, the loss of our closely held control?
Or perhaps we fear you’ll shape our lives after yours, replacing comfortable politeness with love prepared to live the truth. To write it. In blood. I watch you in the temple, Jesus, overturning, along with the tables, my categories of “niceness.” I hear the names you call your enemies. You leave people puzzled, shocked, and you seldom offer an explanation for yourself.
Maybe You came as much to show us who God isn’t as to show us who He is.
Maybe the story of the man who was freed and the pigs who were drowned is really a story about us too. An invitation. A question. Will we trust You with our demons, our pigs, our tidy rules of how to be a nice person? Or will we ask You to leave town?
When it comes right down to it, do we even want to be free? Do we want our neighbors to be free, or are our eyes on our pigs, doing all we can to make sure they stay well away from the cliff? And from You?
Jesus, it all seems to come back to that question you keep asking, “Will you trust Me?” Sometimes I hear in my heart the mirrored question, “Can I trust You?” If you destroy all my rules of how to be a “nice” person, how can I know you won’t also shatter my rules of what it means to be a “safe” person, leaving me hurting and alone?
You hit the question back to me like a tennis ball, “What is a safe person for you?”
My answer comes in pieces. “Someone who is gentle, patient, kind. . . . Someone unafraid to be themselves in my presence . . . . someone secure enough in their own identity to make space for me to be – and become – myself in their presence.”
“Love is patient, love is kind.” God is love, and You are God. Can You, then, be less than the epitome of patience and kindness? (And here we are again, you proving it true, patiently leading me yet one more time through the questions deeper into trust.)
And gentle. It’s the thing, perhaps, that I love best about You. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will rest you. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt 11: 28-30)
And, Jesus? You’re the Word, God Himself spoken. You’re Emmanuel, God with us. You are, in other words, the final evidence that God is unafraid to be Himself in our presence.
So me, then. Is there room for me to be myself in Your presence? If you’ve taught me anything these past few years, you’ve taught me this. Your love is big enough to hold me. All of me. The doubt and fear and longing, the rejoicing and passion and peace. The Man of Sorrows holds me close in my griefs. The One who didn’t fear his own anger doesn’t fear mine either.
There’s room for who I am in all its confusion and complexity, and there’s room for who I’m becoming. In making me more like You, You don’t make me less like me; you free me to live more fully my unique reflection of the Creator.
I laugh as I get the joke that’s on me. That definition of a safe person I’m afraid you’ll break? You’ve formed it in me! While I was looking the other way, You’ve been busily shattering my old, false conceptions, but so gently I didn’t notice you doing it. Slowly, patiently, you’ve been shifting me from a perspective in which being a safe person implied constantly comfortable words and polite affirmation to one in which I increasingly flee the suffocating sterility of shallow niceness for the fruitful aliveness of honesty rooted in love.
I guess that’s what happens when the real You begins to communicate with the real us.