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Take a Breath

Slowly

Breath Again

In the Midst of Our Mess

Br. Keith Nelson


 

 

 

Jesus saves.

 

 

In the church, knit together as his Body, we believe that Jesus saves us from sin – our own and the sins of the whole world. Jesus saves us from death: by his incarnation, by his freely given human life, and by his freely chosen death on the cross. Jesus saves us from the worst in ourselves: from our daily blindness, ignorance, resentment, and failure to love. As we name in the Nicene Creed, all that he did, and all that he does, is offered “for us and for our salvation.”

Jesus saves. Today I believe that with my whole heart – though I haven’t always.

It’s not hard to imagine that somewhere there is a person who doesn’t believe they are in need of saving. The message that “Jesus saves” rings hollow in their ears, little more than a tired slogan tied to a narrow-minded agenda. In fact, they and their many friends hear this proposition and yawn, or chuckle, or roll their eyes. The offer of that kind of Savior is not what they need. Perhaps you yourself struggle with the assertion that Jesus saves.

OK, let’s start again.

Jesus heals.

If the historical portrait we have inherited told us nothing else, it would point to a man known far and wide as a healer. As a band of pilgrims tracing his footsteps, we believe that Jesus, our Savior, was also a healer at heart. We have seen and known in our own aching flesh how he bends down and reaches out to touch the leper, the blind, the deaf, the lame, the bleeding and broken and forsaken of the world.

In healing bodies, he healed hearts and souls, and lives even now to do the same. Jesus heals.

Our imaginary friends don’t believe they are in need of saving. But if pressed, they might admit that, in some sense, they are in need of healing. Deep down, they have felt the dis-ease of living – that feeling when they rest from all their motion and commotion that things are not entirely right, that something is off kilter, out of balance. A bruise, a burn, an open cut throbs beneath the surface. They long to say, “I’m sorry,” but to whom? If they were to come across Psalm 51, if they were to read the words, “The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” they might remove the bandage from the wound within and yield themselves, even if for one trembling moment, to God’s healing touch.

But healing hurts. After all, the wound has been there so long. It’s easy to give up on the course of treatment.


 

 

 

OK, Jesus says. I’ll meet you where you are.

 

 

 


OK, Jesus says. I’ll meet you where you are.

Jesus meets us where we are.

Jesus does not wait for us to get our act together. He doesn’t wait for us to clean the snot off our noses or put on a clean shirt. He doesn’t wait for us to decide what exactly we think of him. He certainly does not wait for us to solve the mystery of human suffering, or articulate an airtight personal theology, or establish an invariable routine of daily prayer. He does not wait for us to prove that we deserve his love.

If your experience is anything like mine, here’s what Jesus does:

On a Thursday night at 9pm – when your heart feels as empty as your refrigerator – Jesus pulls a chair up to the dinner table and helps himself to a piece of your leftover pizza. Jesus doesn’t care that you didn’t cook, that you didn’t even know he was planning a visit, or that you don’t have any clean towels. Shhh. I’ll meet you where you are, he whispers.


 

 

 

If we let him eat our leftover pizza and use our dirty towels; we can be certain he will return the invitation.

 

 

 


Jesus met Andrew and Peter by the Sea of Galilee, mending their fishing nets, because that’s where they were. He met Zacchaeus standing in a sycamore tree; he met Mary Magdalene in the prison of her own mind, possessed by seven demons; he met Paul on the road to Damascus intent upon persecuting the early Church. Jesus met Matthew sitting at the tax booth. And he met all of Matthew’s friends at dinner in Matthew’s house – a group of people who had likely never had dinner with a rabbi and felt disillusioned and cynical about the institutional tradition that had labeled and judged them. That’s just where they were.

But, you see: that is how Jesus saves. That is where Jesus heals. Jesus saves us and heals us by meeting us where we are.

If we let Jesus do this; if we open the door to let him in, even once; if we let him eat our leftover pizza and use our dirty towels; we can be certain he will return the invitation. He will invite us to be with him where he is. Jesus takes us where we are, as we are – and, before we know anything about it, summons out what we shall be, one moment of meeting at a time.


To Consider:

  • How does the idea of Jesus meeting us where we are challenge your expectations of spiritual growth and transformation?
  • What parts of your “mess” do you try to hide? What would it look like to allow Jesus to meet you in your imperfections and brokenness?
  • How might you open yourself more fully to the transformative love of Jesus?

To Try:

  • Take some time praying with Luke 5:1-11. Peter is exhausted after spending a whole night fishing and has caught nothing. At first he is doubtful that Jesus can contribute anything to the situation. When the presence and power of Jesus are made known through a catch of fish that begins to break the nets and even sink the boat, Peter cries, “Lord, go away from me, for I am a sinful man!” In the midst of his dim assessment of himself and his prospects, Jesus chooses him to be a “fisher of people.”
  • When have you felt like Peter, protesting that your life situation was too messy to let Jesus get involved?
  • What does it feel like to practice consent to Jesus’ power and presence in those moments?

15 Comments

  1. Barbara Bertrand on February 17, 2024 at 11:06

    Your reflection bro.keith is spot on
    The thought that Jesu will join me allows one to be less fearful to ask tx.

  2. Don Johnson on February 15, 2024 at 15:03

    I find myself asking if first I can meet myself, what’s swirling around inside of me, always reacting in the moment without thinking, as a first step in opening myself to the grace and healing that Jesus offers me. How can this beautiful message given by Br.Keith move me in the direction of greater self compassion? I am sitting with this question.

  3. Donna Ennevor on February 15, 2024 at 13:20

    Thank you for this refreshing reminder. Hurt has to take place before healing can begin. Without pain there is no gain.

  4. Sarah on February 15, 2024 at 06:11

    Food for a preacher, who also needs feeding. Gratitude.

  5. MicheleB. on February 15, 2024 at 00:36

    Hello. Each Lent I look forward to following the program of reflection the Brothers offer. This year, in particular, I was anxious to hear what you might say. I confess that the word “save” in conjunction with Jesus brings up memories of little evangelical girls asking me if I had been…saved. Then members of Young Life on my university campus. I resented their inquiries. I had no basis to understand their question, since I was baptised as an infant. In this time, the idea that Jesus heals should be a comfort to me, but it seems just as perplexing as saving to me. As I struggle to comprehend a recent loss and my constant feeling of being unsafe in the world, neither saving or healing seem the comfort I wished they were. Trying to reconcile the existential starkness of being human with a concept of being cared about or for seems particularly foreign.

    I welcome this program of reflection. I only wish I could be comforted by it.

    • egg on February 15, 2024 at 08:43

      I share your feelings.

    • Gary Freeman on February 19, 2024 at 09:58

      Oh, MicheleB, I’m sorry for your loss and your struggle. St. Paul’s command to put on the armor of God (I think it was St. Paul), is easier said than done. Simplistic and superficial comments by religious zealots and hacks threaten us more than support us. Our world and society does its best to weaken and wound us and break us down. The psalms say not to put your faith in men or horses. It’s only in and through God that our safety is secure. You use the words “understand,” “comprehend” and “reconcile.” Those are important concepts that can guide us to faith, yet they can also be impediments. As Christ stands knocking, we must not over-think our reasoning; we must just open the door. I hope my prayers for you will bring you comfort and peace and maybe even joy! Gary

    • Lynn on February 20, 2024 at 13:24

      Michele,
      I, too, am so sorry for your loss.
      For some, “healing” can also look like a release from fear…or it can look like extracting meaning from what is tragic or senseless. We are all in different stages and phases of life, with different needs. And yes, the starkness of being human contrasts dramatically with the sense of being loved unconditionally and eternally. Sometimes we are in a place where we can’t feel that love. Yet most commonly, in this desert, the Lord is doing deep work within us and preparing us for when we will emerge from the desert. It can be a Dark Night of the Soul, which incidentally I think our society is currently experiencing at a mass level. My personal experience with the dark night is that we DO emerge, and we see that the Lord has dome some serious excavation and healing when we come out the other side. Doesn’t necessarily help in the moment, I understand. Praying for you.

  6. Rebekah Christner on February 14, 2024 at 17:18

    Thank you for this. A sigh of relief and my worries and burdens are lifted.

  7. Alexandra Bacon on February 14, 2024 at 15:44

    Yes – Jesus meets me where I am. It’s so true. My icon of choice is a postcard of William Holman Hunt’s painting “The Light of the World.” It was given to me when I was 8 years old, after I saw this painting at St. Paul’s Cathedral. This icon of choice is framed, and it’s continually on my kitchen table. Jesus knocks at the door of my life, asking to enter, and meets me where I am, no matter the circumstances. This icon of choice is a loving representation, in my life, of “Jesus heals.”

  8. Susie Williams on February 14, 2024 at 12:08

    Your words brought tears to my eyes because I remember the time I surrendered my mess and shame to Jesus and it was so hard because I just couldn’t let go of the shame. It took me months of anxiety to finally let go of it and allow myself to be healed. And that’s when my transformation began. Thank you for the reminder.

    • Jaan Sass on February 20, 2024 at 14:17

      Jesus save brings to me alot of negative feelings l grew as a fundamentalist and the term saves was used all the time. I love it is used here Jesus heals. I needed to here this message.

  9. Douglas Fenton on February 14, 2024 at 12:00

    I am very appreciative of the reminder in the connections between “save” and “heal”. I am grateful for this offering as a way to begin the Lenten journey. Thank you.

  10. Carol T. Johnson on February 14, 2024 at 10:36

    Thank you for this opportunity to be quiet and to spend time with Jesus!

  11. Kevin Michael James on February 14, 2024 at 09:57

    Hello. What a wonderful way to begin the season of Lent! As I prayerfully read and reflected on these beautiful words and images, I could not help but hear”and feel…”Just BE and surrender your ego to me.”

    Thank you!

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