June 3, 2017 § 6 Comments
Jesus, the Christ, and I—Part 6
In my last post, I talked about how Jesus has appeared to me as a presence and apparition a couple of times in meeting for worship and how this has informed my faith and practice. But those experiences, as important as they were, pale in comparison to a more recent one. Jesus came to me, and to my father, the night my father died. Or at least, that’s how I experienced it.
My father suffered from pretty severe dementia in the last few years of his life. I became quite engaged with his care and we became quite close, in an odd but sweet way that was shaped by both his dementia and our karma. I think he was completely surprised that I stepped up the way that I did.
Soon after receiving the call that he had died, I began weeping uncontrollably. This lasted a long time and was so violent that my wife began to worry.
Then I had a powerful sense of my father’s presence. I asked him to forgive me for all the pain I had caused him; he asked me to forgive him. I was overwhelmed with grief and gratitude and with joy and sorrow. I cried out from my soul.
Then Jesus came. All these feelings, both good and bad, intensified, when I thought that that couldn’t be possible. He had come for my dad, but he stayed with us both for what seemed a long time—many minutes. He did not speak. No one “spoke”—we just stood in each other’s presence.
Then this portal opened, with the light streaming down, the whole thing—only it was for my dad, not for me. And then they left together, but again, all in extremely slow motion, as though they were strolling.
The time that it took and the sense of presence and the intense, light-filled image baked something into my opened and suffering soul. I knew a beautiful, sorrowful peace.
It was maybe half an hour before I could explain to my worried wife what had happened.
I treasure this experience, but I did not come away absolutely convinced that it was “real”. I fully accept that the whole thing could have been a projection of my deep need to reconcile with my dad. And it did not utterly erase my feelings of guilt and sorrow over our relationship, though it has helped a lot.
Nor did it did generate a new kind of relationship with Jesus, at least not in the traditional forms that I recognize in my Christian friends, one that is central to my religious life. No more than did the earlier experiences of Jesus did this one “convince” me to be a Christian, meaning “convincement” in the traditional Quaker sense of conversion.
However, the experience did deepen and strengthen the relationships that I already had with Jesus. It added a profound thankfulness to the deep respect I felt for the figure I had found in the gospels, who had manifested for me as a reconciler, just as the scriptures had proclaimed. And the figure that had heretofore been a vague and rather distant or abstract visitor in meeting for worship—the experience brought him up close and personal, manifesting in at least a momentary intimacy. And it deepened this germinal faith that I had developed from those prior “visitations”; it confirmed my impulse to act as though there might be a there there, even though I had not been given the full assurance that I see in many of my Christian Friends.