There’s one over-arching point that I want to make about the three men that I wrote about in “The Complete Package.” Hopefully, you sensed this point woven throughout my descriptions, but I want to make sure you don’t miss it.
In the months leading up to my father’s death, I was working on my “Dangerous Lie” article that was eventually published in PRISM Magazine (see previous post). If you haven’t read it, it’s essentially a description of the lie that we as Christians communicate when we say or imply that becoming a Christian brings you an unshakable peace (Donald Miller calls this “earthly euphoria”). In the article, I describe four possible reactions to the lie, the first three of which involve accepting the lie or rejecting faith altogether. I had written the fourth section–“reject the lie but tell truth”–but I wasn’t satisfied with it. I had exhibited each of the previous reactions to some extent, and I knew that there was more to faith than the lie, but I was at that place in my own thinking. I guess my question was, “So… what is Christ to us?”
The answer to that question is as simple as it is complicated, and I’m not going to pretend to have an all-encompassing answer. The nature of much of our relationship with Christ–and the way that He acts in our lives and worlds–is and will probably remain mysterious.
What did become incredibly clear to me in the traumatic experience of losing my dad is that Christ is with us. It’s not that I had this undeniable sense of his presence–perhaps in moments I did, while at other moments I felt the complete opposite. The reason why I realized the truth of Christ’s presence is because of the people that modeled his presence for me–they were Christ to me. A former pastor of my family responded to my call in the middle of the night to come be with my family and, over the next week, guided us through the painful funeral process… even though he’d only hours before my call gotten off a flight from an overseas trip, not to mention he hadn’t been personally connected with my family for years. My own pastor picked up the phone when I called, prayed with me, and agreed to my hysterical request that he come to be with me and my family even though he had to preach the next morning and would have to leave his young family to drive over three hours in rain and traffic (there and back!). My counselor talked with me nearly every day that week and was a steady presence throughout the months following, whether I could make the in-person sessions or had to call from a hotel hallway. My doctor simply listened in a way that made me feel like he didn’t have any other patients to see.
This kind of sacrificial “being with” that each of these men demonstrated–when I did nothing to deserve it–fills me with a gratefulness I can’t completely describe. I imagine it’s similar to how Mary (Lazarus’s sister) felt when she sat at Jesus’ feet… or how the children felt when Jesus called to them him even while his disciples were trying to get the children out of the way… or how the adulterous woman felt when Jesus stepped in before the Pharisees could stone her and told her that He didn’t condemn her.
Emmanuel means “God with us,” but the fact is we don’t have the benefit of Christ’s physical presence on earth. I am incredibly blessed to have people in my life that reflect His presence for me. I hope at times I’m able to be that presence for someone, too… and I hope that someone is able to do that for you.