Saturday, April 15, 2006

Jesus with crap in His pants

If you satisfy the needs of the wretched,
then your light will rise like dawn out of darkness.
-Isaiah 58:10

I am not sure how to really put into words the grace that I was able to experience today but I will try.

It came in a wretched package, one that was hunched over, dressed fairly shabby like, over grown beard and smelled like he had craped his pants. He came into the sanctuary in the typical way most disabled people do…skittish and slightly frightened.

I don't know what it is about people like him but I am always drawn to them. I find myself deeply moved to just make them know they are welcome and noticed. It is as if the whole room of people fades into the background and they become all that I see. A grace takes over and it is as if Jesus himself embodies those moments and a very real compassion warms my previously cold heart. I come alive with His perceptions and become motivated to be whatever is needed for them in that moment.

His name was Mike and he came with two other ladies and another gentleman, all from a special needs home down the road. He suffers from a hunched over back that makes him look down to the ground. In order for him to look at you, he cocks his head and looks slightly up at you in a painfully submissive way.

He came to watch Jesus in the church Easter play and I ended up watching Jesus in him.

He sat in the front row right in front of Micah and I. He stunk so very bad and it made me gag. It was awful and it was obvious that people were struggling with his presence. But even with the stench I was drawn to his childlike fascination and praise of the play. At each juncture of the play when something emotional or dramatic happened; he would clap his hands and pump two thumbs up in the air. It was priceless and really the best expression of heartfelt worship I have seen in a long time.  I was humbled.

As the drama unfolded his friends who were sitting behind me were obviously moved as well. During the crucifixion scene while Jesus was on the cross, the woman behind me sobbed deeply. I had overheard her telling someone that she was an ex-addict and had suffered a stroke and was very grateful for being clean. As she sat there weeping fairly loudly, I was again humbled by her visceral reaction to the truth being acted out in front of her. I was numb compared to her…she experienced it from the gut and I experienced it from my head. I appreciated it and she encountered Jesus in it. I enjoyed it and was touched…but she worshipped.

It never ceases to amaze me where I end up stumbling into Jesus. There in a cloud of noxious odor, nestled among a bunch of peripheral nobodies…I encountered Christ in all His hidden disguise.

I deliberately shook Mikes hand afterwards, painfully aware of the surprise he expressed at even being recognized. I agonized internally for him and couldn't help but feel a twinge of pain and anger at the seemingly unjustness of the life he had to endure. As I think about it, it seems much like leprosy. People avoid such uncomfortable oddities. Often it is done consciously but more often, it's just a unChristlike pattern of learned callousness that hardens over our middleclass suburbanized hearts.

Sometimes I really wonder if Jesus is even attending our religious programs and after tonight I realized that maybe He rarely does. Because I saw Him vividly in Mike and realized that what I most often think is Jesus, more than likely is just too easy to be Him. But tonight I saw the God who is only found in the burning bush. A burning bush of flesh melting fire, that when approached, sears off your carnal eyelids and opens you up to true vision. The, he who has eyes to see…kind of seeing.

I have been blind for far too long.

It was nice to shake your hand tonight Jesus…I will be looking for you again.


Matt said...

Dear Eric... Your blog is such a... I mean when one reads the title "Jesus with crap in His pants." You know it's going to be unsettling, and then by the end of reading the post I have tears in my eyes. Because I am so proud to have you as a brother, because what I learn from you because you're willing to be real. If I was Mike I would raise my hands and give you two big thumbs up for that! Love you man!

FCB said...

I guess this post embodies the part of Christianity I love the most. A stranger with little to give and little expectations, comes in with no agenda, leaves with no fanfair, and yet makes a bigger impact than nearly anyone else.
Wanting to reach out to Mike surely is the beauty of holiness, don't you think? God moving in the most spectacular ways with the rudest of ingredients.
What I admire most about Jesus is his care for the unlovely. How He breathes in us the warmest affection for those in the most desperate staits. He is a GOOD God, and my heart swells with admiration as I hear how he moves,and it makes me proud to be called a Christian.

Michael McMullen said...

It was the line "she experienced it from the gut and I experienced it from my head" that got me.

I have some friends who have come out of some pretty hard situations, and they have this faith that makes me weep. I feel so distant sometimes when they talk about Christ. I know Him, but do I truely know Him?

I want to know Him the way Peter, James and John knew Him. Not just the way a Bible school student from a lower-middle class background knows Him. Does that make sense?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the fact that Mike could enjoy and celebrate with us the message of hope that Jesus brings, the sobs of a grateful heart who was once controlled by drugs, the tear-stained eyes of the audience as they exited the building, exciting reports back from the cast who had invited co-workers and friends, personal testimonies of those involved in the drama, salvations, God's provision and blessing...are all evidence that Jesus was there.

Matt said...

Dear Anonymous,
Quit acting like you like my brother. Don't smile anymore. Just walk up to him and tell him what you think.
-Matt Blauer
p.s. Eric, sorry. It just pisses me off...

Anonymous said...

Eric, you definitely make a great, and some times heart-breaking point of finding Jesus in the simple and unlikely places. It's truly humbling. I wasn't in the audience, but I pray that I would have the mind and heart to turn to in adoration, rather than turn away in disgust, at such as sight.

To those who would be angry at the comment of "Anonymous", I believe they were referring to:
"Sometimes I really wonder if Jesus is even attending our religious programs and after tonight I realized that maybe He rarely does",
and I must say that I agree with Anonymous. Though that may only be a side thought in this article, it weighs heavily on those involved in that program, and those who truly encountered Jesus there. I am one of those. I can attest to the fact that if Jesus was there for me, then he was there for all to receive.

My dad asked me this weekend if it was different having Jesus played by my husband, and in all sincerity the answer was no. When he's up there on that cross, when he's healing the sick, when I'm washing his feet, I can't help but see the Jesus of Nazareth whose victory over death we celebrate. Those tears I cry on stage every performance are real tears. They're not conjured up to add affect to some religious program; they're reminiscent of my relationship to Christ, which was the point of the play after all.

Anonymous said...

Dear Matt,

-I am confused by your reaction to a simple difference in perspective? This individual, agree with them or not, witnessed Jesus working through the play. He/She experienced what many felt, so please do not pretend that you know the intentions of someone's heart. I fail to understand how you can draw conclusions from a post that viewed the experience differently and yet personalize it?..especially from someone who was not there. If you did live in Spokane Matt, you would know the countless hours of rehearshal time, props, costuming, endless detail, and prayer that went into making this production something more than an entertaining, "religious" play...but rather into something that forever impacts the lives of those watching it and participating in it. Even though I did not write Anonymous, nor do I know who the Author is, if you must put a face to something...please put mine there. I agree with what was written...a declaration that Jesus was there among us, ministering through our imperfectness, something that he has been faithful to do every year. I wish you could have been there to experience it Matt...something a blog could never do.

Your Friend,
Dave Hunt - Director/Brother-In-Law

Anonymous said...

I hope in this domain of free speech that alternate viewpoints are welcome. Eric has been quite an advocate of different perspectives, and so we should all be allowed to voice opinions, even when we disaggree. Especially those of us that have worked with Eric over many years. It is not a matter of "pretending" to like someone. Hopefully, even with differences in opinion, we can all still love each other...


Anonymous said...

fyi, the anonymous post this morning wasn't me either, but you could put my picture there if you wish.


Unknown said...

Well, as usual it seems the point of the post got lost among most who are responding, most likely due to my writing again. My point was not about the play but the person.

I loved the play, always have, always will. I sat and held my 6 year old son as he cried through the passion scenes. I cried as well, it is a very moving work that everyone at New Hope should be proud to share with the community. That was not my point but I think due to the sensitive nature of this transition time with us, it seems only a certain drum is going to get banged.

I've preached a few duds in my day. There has been many times that I have left a meeting or event I led or helped put on and wondered if much of anything produced spiritual fruit. But I guess my observation and feelings are foreign to others.

Matt: thank you bro, I appreciate your encouragement, support and prayers during this tough time.

Dad: Thank you for have given me eye to see as well, and I honor you for that gift as your son.

Dave: Good job director, actor and brother in law...though you did look a little pudgy up on the cross...just kidding :) You rock the third world! You are the best Jesus around except Jesus

Val, Your comments are always welcome and your support in our conversations has been a blessing.

Anonymous: feel free to post in secret if that is easier. I personally have no problem owning my words here and taking the heat for what is written. They are my words and I must bear the consequence of sharing them.

Oh and I hope everyone had a Happy Easter and spent it with all the ones they love!

Anonymous said...

Matt, I understood what you were saying about Mr/Mrs. "mystery writer". Whoever it is - family or not - responded with an offended perspective - overlooking the pure beauty of the post and injecting what they felt was "missing" if a personal blog needs a teacher's red pen. A post has never been about a complete picture of the we not undertand this? The slippery path of an offended finger pointer and constipated fruit checker leads to destruction, and I hope we ALL seek to be free of this type of life.
And for the record, if anonymous WAS a member of my family...then I am ashamed of you for utterly missing the spirit of the article and the heart of Eric. - LeeElla

Matt said...

I don't think Eric was saying anything bad about the play. He was just sharing what Jesus shared with him. The problem here I think is it's too close to home for the situation there, and everyone is defensive and taking things the wrong way and thinking all a bit much. Let Eric be who he is, if you don't like him, be glad he's moving on. Why do you bother to read his blog anyway? He's my brother and I love him and I will go down fighting for him, even if he is wrong. I don't want to be right, I want to love my brother and share his experiences. Ask yourself what you want. -Matt

Anonymous said...

Eric- This is a first. I usually comment personally. The spirit of your article was well taken & came from a unique perspective and seat. How that has gotten so skewed is baffling. I felt anonymous was agreeing with you, adding that while you were getting to see Jesus in Mike, it was wonderful that others were also getting to enjoy his presence from where they were sitting. Whether that was 4 rows back by Mike's companion Frank (who also had the same challenge), by the cat woman who brought guests to all 3 performances, or next to the children who were seeing their Bible story come alive for the first time and will never be the same. The crows nest is also a unique seat and I've never watched the drama or the audience without a tear stained face. Anonymous only gave additional insights to what you were sharing. The reaction to that totally threw me…

Not like Eric?? We all love Eric and LeeElla and have been very supportive of their ministry for years. Tough transition time, yes. We have 2 grown children that have left home & one that is only a couple of years away so when kids (your own or church family) have decided to move on, it's difficult. You know they can’t start out with what’s available at home and you pray they will land on their feet. They want to strike out by themselves to build something new. With that as the goal, you’re proud to have been a part of their growth. They will always be family, always be loved and home won't be quite the same without them. Yes, that’s all emotional, which is why we have to be very careful to not look for offenses where there aren't any. Assumptions are also dangerous.

As for why we read Eric's blog: He gave the address over the pulpit, he is one of our Pastors & has influence over our daughter in youth. It is our responsibility to read what he has to say, glean from it what we can, grow from new ideas and discuss what we may not agree with or understand. Eric's writing is unique, insightful and sometimes challenging, (which is why I'm sure he posts a blog rather than keeping a journal), to encourage differing opinions, open dialogue, awaken emotions & “get real”. Bren

Matt said...

Dear Bren, et al.,

I'm sorry I can't politely agree with you. There was clear "finger pointer" intentions in Anonymous' comment. If you can't see that, forget it...

As far as not liking Eric, you are all (I don't know who, but you know yourself) giving him hell over there. Bless his decision to go, stop acting like babies. If you love him, act like it. I assume a lot from what I read, forgive my errors, but please acknowledge what is real.

I heard a great song on the radio today, one line was "Hey teacher! Leave those kids alone!" I couldn't help but think of Eric wanting to eat his pudding!

-Matt Blauer