“Israel”

My friend in Indiana (who is a therapist) asked a couple of clarifying questions and reached out to some of his colleagues who are here in the area to see if they were taking clients. Within a couple of weeks I was in touch with Sam.

One of his questions when we first spoke was, “What do you want to get out of therapy?” Not a surprise question by any means, but I was surprised by how unprepared to answer I suddenly found myself.

After a moment’s pause, I recalled a “vision” experience I had a few years back. (I put vision in quotes because I tread lightly in the realm of claiming God miraculously gave me an insight…but I’m not gonna lie: it felt pretty miraculous!)

I was meditating (using the Ignatian Method) on the scene in Mark 10 in which Jesus heals Bartimaeus. I found myself walking with the crowd behind Jesus. He was just barely in sight when the crowd stopped and some commotion began in front of me. The people began to jostle and part as I became aware that Jesus had stopped, turned around and was moving through the crowd…right toward me with his eyes fixed on mine.

A little pocket of space opened up around us and we stood facing one another. The crowd noise dropped to a low murmur as he just looked at me for a moment and I tried not to squirm. Then, with a gentle smile, he asked me the question he had asked the blind man just a few minutes earlier, “What do you want me to do for you?”

I found myself as tongue-tied then as I was feeling in the present with Sam patiently waiting for an answer. In the “vision”, I swallowed, tried to let go of fear, shame and anger and trust the Christ who was standing right in front of me. This was no time for nuance or efforts to impress.

“What IS it that I want?!”

I had let may gaze drop as I struggled, but after a moment, I looked up into his face again and blurted out a little too loud and with a crack in my voice, “I want to be free.”

There was a pause as I tried to read his face. An instant of anxiety when I thought I had answered “wrong” , disappointed him or offended him, followed by an instant of feeling, “Fuck it. It’s the truth and I’m willing to live with the consequences of saying it.”

But presently, a twinkle appeared in his eyes. A smile began to dawn and he leaned forward and tilted his head in what I can only describe as a mischievous fashion. I was taken aback. But even more so when he slowly reached up, put his hands into my beard (which was appropriately first century Palestinian for the purposes of this “vision”) and took hold of it with an alarmingly firm grip.

“Jacob Wrestles with God” by Chris Cock

He altered his posture slightly in such a way as to make me think he was preparing to pick me up by the beard and hurl me, but the widening smile on his face reassured that there was only joy and love at work. He sort of shook my head with his grip a little and started to laugh quietly as his stance continued to change into what looked like a fighting stance…a wrestling stance.

It finally hit me. We were playing.

With only a little apprehension, I reached up and buried my hands in his beard. I was rewarded with his full, approving laugh, and that caused me to begin laughing as I mirrored his stance. We slowly began to circle one another, firmly gripping one another’s beards. It was absurd…and so right.

The crowd responded as one would imagine: they backed away. Their silence grew in proportion to our laughter as the circling became faster and more aggressive. It accelerated to what felt like a cross between a dance and a ju jitsu bout. We were belly laughing now.

As the “vision” had unfolded, my point of view switched several times from seeing through my own eyes, to a “camera view” looking back at myself. For the last few moments, it had been a tight focus through my own eyes on Jesus’ face. But suddenly my view changed to outside again and I realized that we were now spinning so fast that our feet had left the ground and were whirling in the air behind us! Like an amusement park ride, our spinning bodies, connected to each other by hands gripping beards, were rising into the air.

Our laughter had caught the stunned crowd and they had begun to laugh and dance with joy as they looked up at this rising spectacle.

Sitting alone in a car, with Sam on speaker phone waiting for an answer, I began to cry…again. (I was so tired of it at this point) and I blurted out, “I want to be free. I want to know who God truly made me to be and live into that.”

“Oh, yeaaaah. That’s gooood!”, came the response.

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