Sunday, July 02, 2006


Declining Reclining

"One of the disciples, the one Jesus loved, was reclining on Jesus' bosom."

Think about that for a minute.

When was the last time you hear a preacher talk about that verse? It has probably been quite some time.

Now, imagine you're at that dinner with Jesus and his disciples. You watch John lean back against Jesus. What do you feel?

The first time I read that I just didn't get it. It was in the Bible, something presumably true, but impossible to comprehend. Reclining against Jesus' chest? Who in our homophobic culture could look that one square on? I'm less homophobic than most, but I do know where the public limits are.

But, of course, the real reason for this kind of selective blindness is personal. God doesn't do this kind of thing because I neither want it nor will allow it. Of course, what that really means is that I'm dying for want of touch, especially God's. I roll along my orbit, distant from the warming sun, and the track is familiar, and I want no change offered because it'll be just another lie.

And it's impossible. No one talks about intimacy with God other than a few nutcases and mystics. Who believes them? Hair shirts, locusts, caves in hot sandstone. Real people live in cold brick and are never touched.

It's also a matter of pride. Independence. I don't need your damning touch. I'll do it myself, walk on my own feet or fail.

And Jesus sits at the table, calm, waiting. Whispering. Inviting. I look back at three years of experience and see that this is where his guiding hand has led from the beginning.

His current statement is "Learn this now. What's coming next will be so demanding that if you're not intimate with me you'll be without hope." It's not that I'm being punished. Just that life is demanding in many ways, and to touch God puts me in the way of more demands. The way things go. The only way to avoid that is to avoid intimacy... but oh, man.

His touch is unlike any other. He calls, he calls, and I come. Moth to the flame, junkie to the hit, starving man to the table, four-month rain-deprived Angeleno looking with hope to high clouds he hopes presage a storm. Deeper than hunger, deeper than gadget-lust. A tug on a string to my heart and I answer, crying with dread. Each step burns. I quake. I snivel. I fear.

God knows the way to my heart. No one has ever seen me this way. He could just cut off his touch and I would crumple, turn to dust. He knows my heart. Knowledge is control. Yet he asks for permission before doing anything. He invites, and makes the offer so attractive over the years that I come.

I approach, I run away. I freeze, approach, run away. Each time I get a little closer. What might it be like to touch God? What was John thinking? And yet God already touches me: he lives in me. The invader is there. Hardly harmless, but he has only my good in mind.

This is where words just don't carry the gift. Mystics have tried for thousands of years to encompass God's offer in ways that people can understand. Well, you can understand the words... after you have the experience of reclining on Jesus' bosom, even if it's just for a moment.

Where would I be today without the resting place of God's chest? I must be a nutcase or a mystic. This reminds me of the (true) story of that little girl, who having been a very weak preemie that they didn't think would ever live in neonatal ICU, told her mom at a soccer game that the impending rain smell was just like the scent of God when you are leaning on his chest.....He wants us there so badly, Larry!
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