Permit me to take a plunge into some personal sharing here for a moment.
I had an extended conversation with a loved one last night, one who as been living with cancer for over six years. She is one of the great heroes in my life. I am grateful to those in the medical field who have cared for her and helped her manage her pain. She lives with lots of pain these days, but her spirit is stunningly bright, warm, and filled with humor.
I share this because I have been struggling lately about the difficulties I have with expressing what my own personal relationship with Jesus Christ is all about. In preparation for a talk I am giving in a few weeks, I have been reading Forming Intentional Disciples by Sherry Weddell. This book has given me loads of food for thought. Weddell talks about the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" mentality that she and her colleagues have discovered while working with tens of thousands of Roman Catholics. Generally speaking, Catholics just don't talk about their relationship with God; they hesitate to talk about the journey of this relationship. This really hit home for me.
In my own presentations to those in initiation ministry, I often tell them that far too often catechists in the RCIA hide behind their notes, their handouts, their Powerpoint presentations, etc. What I mean by this is that, while teaching is certainly an important component in Christian formation, what seekers are really looking for and what we are charged to provide is a place and space where they can find the Lord Jesus and develop a living relationship with him. No amount of lecturing or handouts or Powerpoints is going to provide that. What provides that is living witness; is another person revealing who the Lord Jesus is in their own life.
I have been saying this for years. Last year, while saying these words, I noticed that my Powerpoint slides looked great and that people were following along on my beautiful handouts. It hit me then and there; I was doing pretty much what I was telling them to avoid. So I stopped my presentation and grabbed a chair and took a very deep breath and I waited. They all looked at me, probably wondering if I had taken ill.
I looked at them, and with tears in my eyes and with a hesitant voice, I said that I wanted to no longer hide behind my presentation about faith formation; I wanted to tell them about my personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Only the words didn't come easily. I think, now having read Forming Intentional Disciples, that I have been caught up in the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" movement as well.
This has all been quite a turning point in my own life and I am struggling mightily with this.
And I know that I have landed somewhere in all of this, and that came up quite strongly last night as I spoke with my loved one.
You see, about fourteen years ago, as I sat at the bedside of my youngest sister, who would die just a few short months after that visit, I met the Lord Jesus in a way that was so, so strong to me. I found him in my sister. And I told her that, "Joanne, I know this seems weird, but I feel closer to Jesus when I am with you, when you are so sick, than I do or ever have felt in any other time of my life." Not being being people who talked about these things (Don't ask, Don't Tell), I thought she might bristle at my remark. But she just looked at me and smiled. And I found him right there.
Jesus Christ is most present to me in the suffering and I knew that presence again last night. I know that there is all kinds of theologizing that we could do in the examination of this blog post. And I am always tempted to do that. But I don't want to right now. I am just glad that I was able to share this with you.
Do you know the Lord Jesus? Are you able to talk about that relationship?
Gotta sing. Gotta pray.