I wrote this last April. I submit this humbly as I feel now is the time to publish it, and I do so “with fear and trembling”. I hope it helps and comforts.~Tom
I don’t know how or when he showed up.
I was lost in thought as usual, doing my own thing, puttering around with this or that, I really don’t know. But here was this man sitting to my left, perpendicular to my position on the couch, enjoying a cup of coffee. He sat upright in his chair but not rigid or uncomfortable. His demeanor was relaxed and humble, yet one who held an air of authority and being in control. I had the impression that he had been patiently waiting for something or someone and was enjoying himself, his time alone and the coffee in the interim.
The coffee smelled great, the same kind of old-school coffee scent you’d find in an old fashioned diner. It was contained in an unexpectedly impressive coffee cup being held by its handle with his right thumb, index and middle fingers and rested on his left palm when he wasn’t taking a sip or two. I stared at it for a moment, as I didn’t remember owning a set. Hell, I didn’t remember letting this guy in, but here we were. The cup was elegant, yet simple and absent of designs. You know when you see a good coffee cup in a store somewhere and you just have to pick it up and appreciate it, or is it just me? The cup was like that. But from all accounts, it was just a beautifully pristine white cup.
He was dressed well. There was an attention to detail in his choice of attire, yet it wasn’t outlandishly expensive or pretentious. He wore a blue suit – darker than royal blue, lighter than navy – with his suit jacket hanging on the back of his chair. No tie, just a clean, tucked in white dress shirt which had the top two buttons undone; his sleaves neatly rolled just past the middle of his forearms. Cognac colored belt and matching shoes.
Middle-eastern in appearance, his skin a complimentarily darker shade than the cognac color of his belt and shoes. He had a full beard, slightly longer than mine; well groomed. Knowing how much attention and effort it takes in keeping a beard properly groomed, I appreciated that his was immaculately cared for and I immediately wondered what product he used.
Then he laughed at something.
The timing was so precise I thought he may be laughing at my curiousity about his beard. It wasn’t a loud, abrasive kind of laugh, more amused at a thought or memory he had, or how you’d laugh quietly when looking at something on your phone.
We began to hold a small talk kind of conversation. He laughed at something I said, I can’t remember what, but damn, he seemed so familiar to me. It was odd, this stranger in my home yet I felt at peace, no threats or red flags of danger.
“Do I know you?”
“Well, I’d hope so.”
I did know Him. It was Jesus, afterall. But, I really don’t know how to describe our relationship.
“Estranged would be a good start.” He said.
“Yeah… it’s odd when you do that sometimes, you know? Sometimes I wish you wouldn’t…” I responded.
He nodded and took a thoughtful sip from his coffee.
“Why are you here?” I asked him. I was wary, suspicious and for some reason a small fire of anger had been kindled.
“Come back to me. Follow me…”
He cuts right to the chase. That first sentence, words I’d heard in a dream last night from an unexpected source. Then following up with a well known phrase. Anger kindles hotter. Why am I so angry? I know, but yet I don’t know… I try to remain calm; hold my tongue. It’s habit, holding my tongue. But also reverence and fear… So many thoughts and things I’ve said rain down inside my head, creating a swirling torrential flood. And he just sits there, patient, in control and compassionate as ever. He also knows why I hold my tongue.
“You hold your tongue because unlike some, you know that your problems…” He corrects himself. “Your complaints are not unique to you. You understand that out of the almost eight billion people on this earth and billions and billions more who have ever lived: you are not unique in your sufferings and questions. So you figure, “What’s the point? Why even voice my complaints and burdens?” Yes?”
“Yeah… something like that.” I say. Simultaneously wanting to draw near to him and create distance. My turmoil seems to genuinely affect him. There is understanding in his eyes. His countenance changes, becomes more familiar than a few minutes ago.
“Yes… start here.” He guestures to himself, the way his face now looks.
I’m embarassed and equally touched as his face shifts to look practically identical to a man who is portraying him on a newer TV series that I hold dear to my heart, only few getting to hear my view and joy of that show, fewer still seeing the hot tears that come down my face as I watch things come to life that I used to I read from a favorite christian author when he spoke about Jesus, things that I also started to see in Scripture myself and tried to show others and how…
I anticipate him finishing my thoughts again, but he just sits there, looking at me. There is a small wink and his lips betray a small grin.
“Ok…” I say in surrender. “Maybe it will be easier if you chimed in as you see fit.”
He laughs gently. “It wasn’t always like this, you know? When I walked among you, I couldn’t anticipate or read or hear thoughts. It wasn’t like that.”
“That right there might upset people’s theology.”
He shrugs. “Perhaps. It wasn’t exactly, ‘Einstein taking the third grade math test‘” He says, using my favorite christian author’s words.
“What did you do?”
“I was among them. I lived with them, I listened to them, I saw them. I paid attention to them. But we can get back to that later. Follow me.”
He says it again, like he’s stirring the embers to keep those issues burning hot; not wanting to sweep them under the rug. I check my phone, a text from my fiance’, we’re shopping for wedding bands for me. I’ve been nervous about finding a good one.
“She’s a good one.” He says. An sort of gentle, respectful tone in his voice. Probably because he knows what’s happening internally. I feel my walls begin to come up, thinking about her around him. Old, stupid religious thinking. Thinking that has always been a barrier to my trusting him completely. God… how many paths am I going down in my thoughts?
“Quite a few. You are troubled over much.” Familiar words. Similar to what is recorded that he said to Martha. He leans in, placing his empty coffee cup on the small tray on the ottoman. He stays leaned in, resting his forearms on his legs. “I’m not going to do that, you know.”
I hesitate. “Do what?”
“Just take things away from you. I don’t like things in the way, to be sure. But I’m not here to go old school on you.”
I’m distracted by work. I’m gone for about twenty minutes and he remains. My thoughts and emotions are brimming like a stew pot with a roiling boil. Distracted. Confused. Upset. Angry – just a little. I’d like to say hopeful… but it’s more cautious. I’m drained today. Part of me wants to weep. I’m tired. Definitely a low day. I wonder if this will change anything for the better…
“Well, that depends.”
“On whether or not I follow you?”
“Yes… and no. It isn’t as simple and cut and dried as you’d like to think.” I love his accent, or the accent he is presenting. He smiles, kind of humbly.
“What do you mean?”
“It just depends on what you decide to do with it.”
I think he means what I do with all the shit I’m carrying around. All the anger. All the doubts. All the confusion. All the fear. All the damn everything.
“You know, we used to be close, you and I.” His words sting, just a bit. Like pulling off a band-aid.
“Do you remember when I joked with you about you worrying about having a son?”
“How could I forget!” I shake my head, a small smile creeps in on my face.
“You were good to keep that mostly to yourself, only telling a small few. But that’s what I’m after. I want that again. Follow me.”
I feel a flush in my face and a rush of liquid to my eyes, I blink it back.
“Like Eustace and Aslan, yeah?” He winks. I know the scene he speaks of. He continues, “That was such a long time ago, as far as things happening to you and I. And such a short, short amount of time as well.”
I get distracted again by my phone. Escapism.
“All of that… stuff… is the gold band around your arm, hurting you…” He’s talking about everything I’m carrying again, bringing me back.
“Yeah, I know. But I feel stuck, like I’m stuck this way. I feel stuck between hopeful and hopeless.”
My thoughts race. So much to talk about… it all gets stuck in my throat and mind. Jumbled.
“It only matters to me, because it matters to you.”
“All of it. If I were to tell you that none of that matters, you wouldn’t believe me. But, it is true. And yet, it matters to me because it matters to you.”
“Because you are holding these things against yourself and you are holding them against me.” I realize that he has not once looked away from me. He’s acted “naturally”, but his posture, voice, guestures, all of it as he sits there, is intently paying attention to me. He continues, “And because you are holding these things… you need to forgive, let go and then when its time, follow me.”
Again the flush, the water, the blinking back.
“Even now, anytime you speak to someone about me, sharing a story, talking about the show, talking about scriptures about me, sharing things from your favorite author… you have the same reaction as you had just now. Even after all this, you remain hopeful, yet cautious. Much like the kid who thinks Christmas just doesn’t work out for him in The Polar Express, no?”
He lets the silence hang for a few minutes.
“What are your favorite stories about me?”
“That’s easy. Anything to do with mercy and healing and restoration.”
“Because that’s what I believe you are about. Many focus on -“
He interrupts respectfully. “Let’s leave what others believe alone for now… we’ll come back to that later. Let’s focus on you. What do you believe I am about?”
I get distracted again.
“Didn’t you say that you came to heal the broken hearted?” He smiles as I scroll through my phone, “I can’t remember the exact phrasing completely anymore, most of it is there, but it is jumbled like most things.” I find it:
“The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.”Luke 4:18, The Holy Bible NKJV
“That was an intense day.” He said with a chuckle.
My thoughts drift to my step-dad, about to go under for a surgery. He gives me a reassuring look about the situation.
To be continued…
I’ve been playing around with AI Art for awhile now and I wanted to use it for this post, some came close, some were just comical… So, below are some of the images I thought share-worthy, but didn’t want to put them as the featured image as not to draw away from the content itself. I hope you enjoy.~Tom