I was biting my lip and all I could think was, they are gonna think I’m crazy if I start crying.
I stared at words I could not read but knew by heart. A song from my own church childhood…
Lord, You are more precious than silver
Lord, You are more costly than gold
Lord, You are more beautiful than diamonds
And nothing I desire compares with You
After a couple of times through the Pastor directed the worship leader to sing the lyrics in English. I could barely get them out.
I felt the pressing presence of Jesus. I felt the touch of His love in the unguarded purity of a warm welcome.
I hadn’t expected it.
For my Transcultural Healthcare class I needed a “field experience.” My oldest daughter and I walked into this Spanish service held where my youngest daughter attends preschool. As we walked into the lobby a man stopped immediately because, well, we looked out-of-place. He gave us a big smile as I explained why we were there and asked if it was okay for us to attend.
One hundred percent! Do you speak Spanish?
I told him no and he walked away, seemingly on a mission.
We took a seat in the back and were greeted by smiling faces, hellos and holas. The next thing we knew Norma was introducing herself and inviting us to sit with her family. We moved with her and met more friendly faces. Before service could begin a beauty of a young woman came to sit by me. She handed me a bilingual Bible and explained she was there to interpret for us. Her name was Percy and she was Pastor’s mission for his visitors.
With my head tilted to the right and sitting more closely to a stranger than I normally would, I listened to Percy translate…various praises were shared, prayer requests and then a message about living with a pure heart before God.
When the service was over and I had thanked Pastor Javy, Percy, and Norma we made our way back to the van. I looked at my daughter and tried to explain how touched I had been. How unexpected their kindness and warmth had been.
And I finally cried.
See, I thought I would just sit in the back and observe. And even though it might be awkward, well I needed to do it so I could write this paper.
But Jesus touched my heart. He touched me. He made me see and feel within this small group of Hispanic Christians many of the things that I have grieved not experiencing in my middle class, mostly white church world.
Instead of being invisible, receiving a polite nod or smile, I was embraced.
I told my daughter through tears that if Christians treated visitors, regardless of their differences, the way we had just been treated people would come to church. They would stay in church. They might actually believe the things church people say about Jesus.
I keep thinking about a movie my family watched last Saturday night. “Risen” was about a Roman Tribune who was assigned the task of finding the body of Jesus after the resurrection. Instead of finding a corpse, the Tribune found Jesus alive and well. In one scene a group of angry people were running a leprous man off from their village. As the man stumbled and fell to the ground, Jesus got up and went over to him.
Jesus sat down on the ground beside the man and put His arms around him. Initially the man covered in skin lesions pulled away but Jesus held on to him. And the man cried out softly, No one touches me!
No one touches me.
Jesus is no smiling head-nodder. He’s a hurt-embracer. A broken-life-toucher.
He gets down to the ground and puts His arms around us. It’s unexpected and awkward because we live with our guard up around people, especially church people. So when Jesus won’t let us go we squirm and try to pull away because being touched is the undoing.
The undoing of our pain, our soul’s disease and dis-ease. Being touched by Jesus is the uncovering of our pretense; our shaky control.
Jesus touched me last Sunday as I sat shoulder to shoulder with Percy. As Norma leaned into our personal space to ask about my daughter’s school and learn our story a bit. As I recognized the melody to a chorus from my childhood and struggled over the lump in my throat to sing along.
Jesus is absolutely going to touch our lives! He is going to find the ways, the hands, the words, the songs, the unexpected encounters.
He is going to get up from wherever He is when He sees you. Jesus is coming over to where you are.
Jesus will look directly into your pain, your sin, your shame, your loss. He’s not going to glance nervously or pretend it isn’t real. He is not intimidated by your life. Jesus is not going to offer a smile and shake your hand. He’s not going to refer you to a verse or hand you a Bible. Jesus is not going to ask if you have made Him the Lord of your life before He even knows your name. He’s not going to carefully hand you a bag lunch or a twenty and invite you to His church. He’s not going to walk away feeling good because He tried.
He’s not going to walk away at all.
Jesus is gonna get down into the dirt with you. And He’s gonna hold on to you until you believe you are loved.