The first day of the course was hard. I had only slept a couple of hours the night before. Even at the best of times, my brain processes things slowly, though richly and deeply, and with fatigue and nervousness added to the mix, I found myself unable to complete any of the exercises in the time given. “Please slow down!” I wanted to cry to the facilitators. “I can do this, really I can! I just need a little more time.”
“You’re failing!” a voice in my head prodded anxiously. “Pull it together! Hurry up! Just try a little harder!”
Another voice mocked, “You might as well stop trying. It’s obvious you’re not cut out for this. You’re already failing.”
But finally that afternoon, when I could sit alone with Jesus for long enough to let the other voices still, He reminded me of truth: I am His and He is mine. He delights in me and desires me and it doesn’t matter one iota to Him that I couldn’t complete the exercises in the minutes allotted. It doesn’t make me one tiny bit less in His eyes. It doesn’t even make me less close to Him. Instead, it drives me closer and makes me love Him more, as I’m reminded again that I can do nothing on my own—can’t come close to Him, can’t settle myself in His presence, can’t hear His voice—and He draws me, settles me, helps me hear, just because He delights in me and wants me close.
The next morning we listened to the story of blind Bartimaeus. We were instructed to put ourselves into the story, to imagine ourselves on the road, in the middle of the crowd. “What is the road like?” Instantly I was back in Afghanistan, my black shoes greyed by the clouds of powdery dust that rose with each step. It was hot and I was sweating and I could feel the press and shove of bodies around me. A woman hidden beneath a dusty burqua tugged on my sleeve, clinging, slowing me with her pleading.
“Imagine you are Bartimaeus, the blind beggar. What do you hear, what do you feel as Jesus approaches?” I didn’t even get to how Bartimaeus’ might be feeling. As soon as I found my place as the beggar, sitting at the side of the road, I was surprised by a lightness within me. Tears filled my eyes as I realized what had happened: I’d dropped the weight of having to be Jesus. I only realized when I took my place at Jesus’ feet that I’d experienced the scene first as though I was Jesus, crowds pulling at my clothes, begging for healing, I feeling the weight as though their needs were mine to bear.
There’s a tree behind the home where we met. Its bottom has been hollowed by death but its top is wildly, vibrantly alive. I can’t explain it; I only know that the rent ascends and descends from perfect love, and opens wide enough for me to step inside and stand wondering at the mystery which opens upward, too high for me to see the top. I want to stay there, to live in the love that opens wide for me and welcomes me in. I am there, held and surrounded and forever belonging.
The mystery is too big for me. We, together, are Christ’s body, Jesus living in us and through us. He looks out of our eyes at crowds and loves beggars. Sometimes we are the way He bears burdens and touches blind eyes with healing. But He is in us only because we are in Him, held and loved, ourselves beggars being healed into disciples. We rest, forever safe in the embrace that carries the weight and keeps loving us in the reality of what is in any given moment.