Being John

I was approached a couple of weeks ago by one of the art directors in our publishing company. He described a poster that he wanted to do that had Jesus de-robing himself of his divinity and looking toward earth with an incarnational gaze. I said, "That sounds cool." And then he said, "I'd like for you to be Jesus in the photo shoot."

I have a full beard and long, hippie hair. I've been growing it out for almost two years now; not really sure what the goal is other than lettin' it grow. I've had folks tell me before that I looked like Jesus, but never have I had an offer to "be" Jesus. I accepted this guy's offer and last Tuesday, I went down to a little photography studio where the magic would happen. One of the assistants put makeup on my face and neck and hands; something called "Texas dirt." I'm a pretty white guy normally; needless to say, this was the best tan I've ever had in my life. Next came the outfit - your standard gauze-like robe with an outer jacket (of sorts) in earthy tans and blacks. And then a crimson royal robe went over the whole thing. I stood on mark while the photographer got the lighting right and then I struck about thirty different poses, trying to get the look the artist had in mind. It was more difficult than I expected; setting aside your divinity, that is. After about an hour, he said he was pleased, paid me twenty-five bucks, and my work there was done.

I've gotten quite a bit of ribbing from my co-workers; people genuflecting at the water fountain, loaves and fish left on my desk, etc. It's cool. But I've been reflecting a little on the experience and this is what I've felt. I really didn't like being Jesus. I know it was only a photo shoot and it was only for an hour or so and it was helping a guy out who needed a messiah-look-alike. But it just felt wrong. It was like I couldn't get my hands right and my right elbow was never really extended correctly and they parted my hair right down the middle, so it turned out kinda like a Barry Gibb Jesus. It just wasn't me. And that's where my thoughts took me - it wasn't me. Jesus doesn't want me to be Jesus; no, Jesus wants me to be John. Jesus did Jesus as no one else could or would. And everything from his divesting of divinity to his howls of anguish on the cross need never be repeated again. Remember - he said, "It is finished!" His birth, life, death and resurrection was to liberate us from the false selves we all seem to love so much and invite us into something called life, real life. His desire is that we live out just who he created us to be. And in my case, that's John. Trying to be Jesus, even in a photo shoot, dances way to close for my taste to opening the door to a messiah complex. And once that door is opened, it's opened. But I feel it's actually a cop-out trying to BE Jesus; it's much easier to try and mimic what he looked like or did on this earth than to try and wrestle with stepping into each experience anew and fresh and trying to be myself, strengthened by his Spirit, in those situations. We parrot some Bible verse or give our interpretation of a new testament reaction in some scenario and believe, "Well, I was Jesus in that moment to those folks." Well...maybe. Maybe what Jesus wanted you or me to be in that scenario was ourselves - that self that he created with specific desires and loves and those specificities were just what that situation called for. But rather than being alive in the creative juices of the Holy Spirit, we deferred to a lowest common denominator faith and stepped outside ourselves, put on a little make-up, donned something nobody wears anymore, and we struck a pose. And that's what they call posing.

I hope you don't think I'm pooh-poohing on striving for Christ-likeness in our lives; that's really not what I'm against. And if that's what's comes across, then I've missed my mark (again). Jesus said, "You (you and me) are the light of the world." Now you can let that go to your head and become Ego-man or woman; or, you can let that go straight to your heart and hear an invitation to be yourself; something no one else can do and no one else was created to do. I saw the finished product on Friday; it looked pretty cheesy. I'm guessing the real Jesus got a chuckle out of it and said something like, "Harder than you thought, huh John?" Yes, Lord, it was. But I did really like my tan.


"But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son..." Gal. 4.4

This verse has been on my mind for about three weeks...just that phrase "the fullness of the time" has kept surfacing, unbidden. The company I work for is having a "write a Christmas devotion" emphasis and I signed up. They sent me the text they wanted one written on - "But when the fullness of the time came..." Strange. Humbling. Divine.

Think about that phrase a minute - "the fullness of the time." I'm not going to proceed by proper steps of scripture interpretation here. You probably don't care, but it's always good to say those things aloud. When time was full, when things had reached an apex of sorts, when everything was filled up to the brim, that's when Jesus came. When there was no more room, God sent forth His Son; in the fullness of the time.

Have you ever had an experience where it felt like you were full? After a dinner this evening at our fav Mexican place, my wife said, "I'm so full; I can't eat anything else." No room, not even any desire for that which one loves; full. I got a memo today describing my schedule tomorrow, it's a big sales blitz thing and the schedule is full; there's no room for any other presentations or last minute changes. It's full. We all know that feeling, that experience of being full. But just when we believe there's no more room, something squeezes in. That's what happened in the Christmas story. He doesn't request permission; he doesn't ask us what our schedules are like - no, He just gets sent forth into that fullness. And into ours. But since everything is full, He's coming in small, under the radar, humbled, incarnated in the muck and ruck of humanity, squeezed from a womb and then squeezed into swaddling clothes and then squeezed between Mary and Joe and the little drummer boy. His entry is strange, backdoor. I know all about the heavenly host appearing to the shepherds on the hillside while the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sang; that was big, no doubt. But the shepherds saw it and no one else and who believes shepherds' tales? Nobody really; maybe their mommas.

We've got a lot of folks carrying on these days about God's bigness and how we've lost a sense of that and how we need to taste again of the grandeur of God and His Omni-titles...Omnipresent, Omniscient, etc. Whew! That makes me tired just typing it. I'm putting my eggs in the basket of small, incarnation, the Big becoming Little, what ole' Lewis called "the grand miracle," a God who is able to wiggle in when everybody's says, "We're full." I don't know if you can make heads or tails of what I've just typed; my eyes are red from a days' reading. But God's wiggling, squeezing, squirming in yet again this season; He's showing us, if we've eyes to see, that full is not an obstacle for Him; in fact, that may be where and when He works best. When He wants to get sent forth, He gets sent forth. And that gives me hope tonight, because I feel like my life is FULL - no room. Maybe I'll post this again after I've fleshed it out a little more...that'll do for now.