I was worshiping before a cross I bought at a pawn shop of all places. I set it in a corner of my bedroom where I would kneel as I said morning and evening prayer. It had a patina of dust and grease that obscured the the figure on it. I was in the habit of cleaning it little by little; trying to preserve the color and the wood.
One morning, I dozed off during prayer. I dreamed I was washing Jesus on my pawn shop crucifix. I wasn't paying much attention to the figure; just the task; noting with pleasure my progress one clean area at a time.
I stood back to admire the fruit of my labor. A nauseous feeling punched me in the stomach and a stormy confusion struck my mind. On that cross was nothing more than an image of myself. I had made Christ in my image and that's the Christ I worshiped.
He gave me a thumbs up with his right hand still nailed to the cross and smiled at me nodding his head. He checked the watch on his left hand and nodded again as he winked. All my efforts to be good and righteous were to be worthy of the worship I gave myself. Self idolatry!
My nausea turned to anger. I grabbed a dumbbell from a corner of my bedroom and began beating the image on the cross over and over. I heard it breaking like porcelain. My head was hot. I was sweating profusely. Ritual drumbeats pounded my temples as I made the porcelain crash. I would rather have no faith than this false one.
Exhausted, I stumbled back and surveyed the damage. I was astonished to see Jesus and I touched him. His flesh was soft but cold. His body lifeless. Next, I lay on a dirt floor in a dark room. I rose to my knees and felt around for stability. I felt a stone table. There lay a body wrapped in something. Jesus! His tomb!
The dumbbell was suddenly in my hand again and something told me to beat the floor. The floor cracked. I kept pounding the floor and a hole opened up before me revealing hell. I looked and saw nothing but felt a hopelessness and despair that seemed to pull me in. I was on the verge of falling when a hand gently stopped me and guided me to a wall where I collapsed. I fell asleep; dreaming within a dream.
I awoke in darkness. I sensed the stirring of life below. I don't know how I sensed life. Suddenly light flashed upward from a place that had never known light and the stone blocking the entrance rolled away. Two angels stood next to me. I turned and saw Jesus' body wrapped in linen sitting up. The angels looked at me and I knew to remove the bandages. Slowly I unwrapped Jesus' head. He glowed in new triumphant love. He sat patient and humble. I quickly unwrapped his arms, his body, and his legs. The two angels smiled at my wonder.
I awoke before my grungy crucifix in the corner of my room. It was a beautiful day. So, I went for a walk among the people in sunshine.
When we look to Jesus, we might see the best we can be. We might see the solution to our problems. I wonder how much of Jesus we can see that's not already part of us. Do we see an "otherness" in Christ that makes us want to bow and worship him?
I knew someone who went to the Philippines as an independent missionary. He had no organization supporting him. I wasn't sure about his methods but I never doubted his heart. One day, he stumbled upon a YWAM mission after walking through the jungle for several days. He was hungry and asked the leader for something to eat. She didn't want to be tricked into giving food to a clever beggar and directly questioned him. In the end, she grudgingly gave him something. She had no idea of the story of this young man. He left his home in Vincent Ohio, used his own money to travel to the Philippines, where he lived in poverty while spreading the gospel in the Tagalog language in their markets and streets. She couldn't recognize a vision of Christ apart from the comfortable and familiar.