Again, Jesus, you ask of me, “Who do you say that I am?”
You ask each of us that question at times, Jesus, and since it is now my turn, how can I answer this question save in the words of the man who was blind from birth, whom you healed, “One thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.”
Though differing periods of my life I have formed different pictures and opinions of you; none really invalidates my previous thoughts and experiences, rather each in turn enhances the other. I am aware you already know what you mean to me, but since your question invites me to examine my life closely and define your influence over the years, I’ll roll back the years and revive memories of times we’ve spent together.
I recall hearing stories about you when I was a small child, but the picture books always portrayed you as white-skinned with long blond hair and sky blue eyes. Children always surrounded you, so it seemed. It wasn’t till my teens I learned that you actually spoke to young people, awakening them to the fact that in God’s eyes they were precious. In those days we knew where you would have us serve you best as disciples, but I was so acutely aware of my inadequacies, my lack of qualifications and my sinfulness that it took thirty years before I was ready to start training for the job you had always wished for me.
I remember when I was beaten, first by strangers who didn’t like my butch appearance, then within a relationship, and how I turned to you, asking you to make sense of it. As I looked at you I saw the marks of those beatings that had been inflicted on your body. Though neither my pain nor my sorrow was eased, at least I knew you too had experienced such cruelty, and with that knowledge came such peace. If you could bear this, then so could I because I sensed your presence there with me.
As we walked the path of discipleship together, I recall how you looked deeply into my eyes and searched out all the secret places where I had hidden bitterness and anger. Then you inquired whether I was ready to let go of these burdens that were crippling my life. You asked me to forgive those who had caused such pain and anger, for this was the only way to cut the ties to these people, ties that held me in bondage. Then there were those times when you asked whether I loved you sufficiently to give my whole life into your keeping, relinquishing all those parts I had previously decided to manage by myself. It was hard, Jesus, to bring you every part of my life, even the first time you asked, but that was not the end of it. Like a bookkeeper updating figures, you returned time and again, reminding me that I had again accumulated areas from which you were excluded. Will there ever be such a time, Jesus, that all of me truly belongs to you?
Do you remember how, like an overwhelming wave of peace, you imparted your Holy Spirit into my life, and I was stunned to discover you love me even to this extent? It was exactly the same amazement I knew when I learned that you wanted to see me healed and whole. I heard your words, those same words you spoke to the man at the pool called Bethzatha, “Do you want to get well again?” You took me back through my life so I could judge accurately what events were caused by others and what by my self-indulgence. At last I could let go of resentments against certain other people, for I could see my own faults. You were healing me. You continue to heal me, for life’s pathway has not always been smooth and even, and all too often I stumble and fall, grazing my knees, elbows and pride. You pick me up, dust me down and we take a look at the events which have caused me to miss the path.
When I was serious about being freed of my addiction, I was able to lean on you for those first few weeks until I knew I could manage each day, healed of my dependency. When you called me to serve in a new and untried ministry and those in authority stated this was impossible, you held me close as events unfolded that shook me free of all that had crippled me within a particular denomination. You healed my wounds as those chains were burst asunder, and yours was the confidence with which I moved forward to serve your people. From you I drew the determination to keep my eyes focused on the work ahead, rather than waste time regretting events of the past. Each time I have been lonely, you have been there to comfort me. In joy, through grief and in pain I have known your presence.
Who are you? I cannot prove by any earthly standard of measurement who you are, but all my experiences and interaction with you give me the confidence to declare that you are indeed God, for who else could know me as intimately as you do? Who else could love me when there was little to love in my nature? Who else would seek to heal me? Who else would be willing to pay the price demanded by every example of self-indulgence on my part? What can I say to you, Jesus of Nazareth, but “Once I was lost but now I am found; once I was chained but now I am free; once I was blind but now I can see.” You indeed are the Christ, beloved of God, who has opened the doors of all prisons and invites each person to step free into Paradise.
Rev. Vera I. Bourne of Lismore, N.S.W., Australia, served as Outreach Clergy at Christs Community Church.