The world has been a lot lately.
I live in a small town in Colorado, and so far we are relatively unaffected by Coronavirus mania. I mean, the kids are out of school for two weeks and all community activities have been cancelled, and of course there is no toilet paper to be found, but still…compared to much of the world, we’re relatively unaffected so far. When things like this happen (not that “things like this” happen very often), I tend to focus on things that may seem unimportant to some. You know…pop culture. Celebrities. Politely irreverent jokes.
Is it a defense mechanism? I don’t know. Maybe. All I know for sure is that if Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson don’t make a full recovery and get back to the States pretty soon, COVID-19 and I are gonna have a chat. (Also, I’m legitimately sad that the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is cancelled. You know the song from the 1960s that goes, “I don’t care what they say, I won’t stay in a world without love”? Well, for a couple of days there that song was running on constant loop in my head, but replace “love” with “March Madness.”)
But in the midst of my polite irreverence, I experienced one of the most profound epiphanies of my life.
Sometimes when I have a difficult time turning my brain off at night, I listen to the Abide app. It’s Christ-centered meditation, basically. To tell you the truth, I don’t really do it properly. I don’t focus on the things they tell me to focus on, and I’m usually not paying enough attention to know when I’m supposed to breathe in or breathe out. But still…it relaxes me.
The other night I was listening (sort of) and beginning to fall asleep. I was in that state somewhere between daydreaming and regular dreaming, and suddenly I saw Jesus. I think that maybe the app was telling me to give all of my cares to Jesus, but I can’t be completely sure. (Again, I don’t really pay attention. But it’s usually a pretty safe bet that the app, quite wisely, is trying to get you to relax by giving all your cares to Jesus. So we’re going with that.) But when I saw Jesus in my mind, I saw him differently than I’d ever seen him before.
We should pause briefly so I can confess to you that my physical view of Jesus is 100% based on how he’s been portrayed in movies. I assure you my overall relationship with him goes much deeper than that, but how he looks? Yeah…in my mind he looks like the guy from The Bible miniseries, with a little bit of Jim Caviezel thrown in. (He probably doesn’t look like that. I get it. But it works for me. Don’t judge.)
So anyway, there was Hollywood Jesus in front of me in my mind, and I was handing him all of my concerns. Stick with me. Nothing about that was extremely profound, but we’re getting there. I just kept handing him thing after thing after thing, and he kept taking everything. The profound part is that he was smirking at me.
Yes, Jesus was smirking at me.
Now, I know that there can be negative connotation associated with smirking. Like the person smirking is smug or rude. That was not the case at all. The smirk actually looked a whole lot like this…
And no, before you ask…in my mind, Jesus did not look like Zac Efron. (Well, okay…not that far off. But that’s not the point.) Nothing about this photo of Zac Efron has anything to do with my profound epiphany, apart from the smirk. The look on Zac’s face does not communicate smugness or rudeness. (Bear with me here. I realize Zac was smiling for the press. It’s the best example I could find!)
When it was Jesus who was smirking at me, and not Zac Efron, I knew exactly what the smirk meant. He was watching me give my burdens to him and he was willingly accepting my cares and worries, but he also knew I was holding back. He knew there were some scary things I was trying to hold on to. He knew I didn’t even want to admit that some of the things were bothering me. I certainly didn’t want to admit that they were too heavy for me to carry by myself.
Jesus knows me so well that he smirked at me, as if to say, “Seriously, Bethany? Who do you think you’re fooling?”
He smirked at me until I smiled, and then he held his hands out and curled his fingers in the universally accepted hand gesture for “C’mon…let’s have it. All of it.” (That same gesture can sometimes mean, “Come at me. We’re about to have a knife fight.” But that’s usually just in West Side Story. This wasn’t that.)
Jesus wants all of it, and he’s not scared of any of it. He knows when I’m holding back, and he knows exactly why. And he knows me well enough that we’re on smirking terms. With just a look, he was able to call me out on all my insecurity and all my self-dependence. My pride, my pain, my fear.
Maybe in your mind, Jesus doesn’t smirk at you. Maybe he doesn’t look like Zac Efron or Jim Caviezel or miniseries guy. (Kudos to you for your non-pop-culture-addled brain. Aren’t you special.) But everything that was profound in that image for me is just as profound and true for you…no matter what he looks like. He wants it all. And no matter how scared and uncertain things are in our world right now, I promise you Jesus is making some version of that “C’mon…let’s have it” gesture for each of us.