I'm convinced that sometimes our faith is not what it seems and losing it may be the best option. This is a story about such a journey of discovery and redemption.
I was worshiping before this cross I bought at a pawn shop of all places. I set it in the corner of my bedroom and would kneel there to say morning and evening prayer. It had a patina of dust and grease that obscured the color and facial features of the figure on it. I was in the habit of cleaning it little by little; trying to preserve the color and the wood. I started at the feet and was working my way up.
One morning, I dozed off during my prayer time. I dreamed I washed the Jesus on my pawn shop crucifix from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. I wasn't paying much attention to the figure; just the task; noting with pleasure my progress one clean patch at a time.
I stood back to admire the result 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 know the Bible says I died with Christ, but, I knew that's not what this represented. In an act of self deception I made Christ after my own image. That's the Christ I worshiped. I don't think this is what Billy Graham meant by Jesus being your personal savior.
He gave me a thumbs up sign with his right hand still nailed to the cross and smiled at me nodding his head. He checked the watch on his left hand as he nodded again and winked. All my efforts to be good and righteous were to this end: to be worthy of my own worship and adoration. I was practicing self idolatry.
My nausea quickly turned to anger. I grabbed a dumbbell from another corner of my bedroom and began beating the image on that cross over and over again. I heard it breaking like porcelain. My head was hot. I was sweating profusely. Ritual drumbeats pounded in my temples as I made the porcelain crash. I would rather have no faith than this false one.
Exhausted, I fell away and surveyed the damage. I was astonished to see Jesus there on the cross. I touched him. His flesh was soft but it was cold. His body was lifeless. The next thing I knew, I was in a dark cool room. I got up off the dirt floor and felt around. I felt a stone shelf. There on that shelf lay a body wrapped in linen. It's Jesus. This is his tomb.
Something told me to take my dumbbell and beat the floor with it. The floor of the tomb cracked when I struck it. I kept pounding the floor and a hole opened up before me revealing hell. I looked down and saw nothing but felt it's hopelessness and despair. That feeling seemed to pull me. Just as I felt myself falling in, a hand pushed me back against the wall where I collapsed and fell asleep; dreaming within a dream.
I suddenly awoke still in darkness. I sensed the stirring of life below me and suddenly a light crashed upward from a place that had never seen light. Then, the stone blocking the entrance rolled away and I saw two angels standing there. I turned around and saw the body wrapped in linen sitting up. The angels looked at me and I knew they meant for me remove the bandages. Slowly I unwrapped Jesus' head. He glowed in fresh triumphant love. He sat patient and humble. I quickly unwrapped his arms, his body, and his legs. The two angels smiled at my wonder.
That's when I awoke before my grungy crucifix in the corner of my room. It was a beautiful day. So, I went for a walk.
When we look to Jesus, we might see the best we can be. However, are we able to look to Jesus and see what's not already part of us? Do we see an "otherness" in Christ that makes us want to bow down and worship him?
I knew someone who went to the Philippines as a missionary alone. I wasn't sure of his methods (going alone) but I never doubted his heart. One day, he had been walking through the jungle all day and needed food. He stumbled upon a YWAM mission and asked the leader for some food. She questioned my friend's motives and said she didn't believe him. She ended up begrudgingly giving him something. She had no idea of the story of this young man who left his home in Vincent Ohio to travel the Philippines on foot spreading the gospel in the Tagalog language in the market places. He didn't reflect her image of Christ at that moment in the mission.
Jesus said not to do our good deeds for those like us. Give to those who can't repay. See Christ in someone not like yourself and do good to that person. Then, we'll see a bigger Christ.