A Piece of Writing

Hello all! If you’ve wondered where I’ve been disappearing to, I’ve been putting more work into larger projects. (Plus trying to earn an income.)

I’ve been writing a book since April — I don’t know if it will ever see the light of day, but like any artistic project, it refuses to leave me be, despite all my other, more immediate, obligations.

Anyway I thought it might be good to occasionally share pieces of the “big dogs” writing projects.

This piece comes out of a fiction work currently in progress. It tells the story of a woman agreeing to stay in the spare room of a stranger’s home as a means of escaping an abusive boyfriend. Though not religious, she quickly becomes suspicious that her host is none other than Jesus. (And, to clarify, she usually just calls him J, avoiding saying his name.)

Anyway, here goes!

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There were a lot of strange things I learned about J from living with him. You meet people sometimes who you can tell they’ve been through a lot, and he was like that — but different. I guess the best word for it was that he was not haunted… It was all light with Him, even in trauma. He was so convinced of purpose, it left no room for doubt; and with no doubt, he was unafraid.

I also came to realize that I loved Him. It was strange at first, even difficult – he was so obviously better than me, so much better, and I spent my first days alternating between giddy excitement and depressed self-loathing. How could such a man even love me? I saw all my awfulness drug from the shadows into the light of day, when I looked into his eyes. After a few days, however — once it felt like everything had been drug out of me that could be — and after I had told him everything about myself and my life — I was standing in the garden, quietly, and I realized I was truly happy.

As I lived with him, I began to notice more things – trademarks from his past. He had holes in his hands and feet – I had already known that before I met him. But he had a lot of other scars, too. Sometimes if he ran his hands through his hair, I’d see marks around his hairline. I was going to ask him about it one day when I suddenly realized – these were scars from The Crown of Thorns. The thought of it was so awful that I had to excuse myself to the bathroom. I just stood there in front of the mirror, mouth covered, eyes shut. That evening while I sat in the living room, I could not look at him. When he asked me what was wrong, I lied and said I was fine.

One day we were washing dishes together and J got his shirt soaked somehow. Laughing, he pulled off his shirt and hung it over the back of a kitchen chair. I turned, laughing, to speak to him.

When I turned to look at him, I suddenly dropped the plate like a shocked housewife in a sitcom. It came crashing to the floor.

He turned to look at me. “What’s wrong?”

I was trembling and crying, unable to speak yet. He walked over to me, and loosely held my arms. “What’s wrong?” he asked gently. I buried my face in his chest, sobbing.

I had never seen J’s back before that day. It was a tangled mess of scar tissue, from one end to the other. Starting from the base of his neck, going past where his jeans covered him, there were large scars, branching into smaller scars, branching into nasty little blotches and spurs. It was not disgusting, for it had longsince healed solid. But it was horrifying to see, even to imagine. Worse yet, I had the strange feeling that I had contributed to them.

He rubbed my shoulders reassuringly. When I regained my breath, I pulled away from him slightly, not breaking his embrace. “What happened to you?” I cried. He looked intently at me. “Your back,” I said softly. “What happened to it?”

Now tears formed in J’s eyes, but not from sorrow. “It was a cat-of-nine-tails, beloved. A kind of whip they used to use that split at the ends, and they wove sharp objects into the braids.” He gave me a moment to let that sink in. “They tortured me with one. Took my clothes from me, bound my hands to a post, pulled my undergarments down around my ankles like a little boy about to be spanked. They whipped me forty times, from my shoulders to the back of my kneecaps.” Another long pause. “But it didn’t appease the crowd. So they laid a wooden cross across my back — on all the open wounds — and they made me carry it through town, until we reached the outskirts. Then they took my clothes, laid me naked over it, nailed me down and put me where everyone passing in and out of town could see me. It was like that for six hours. And then I died.”

The way he spoke about it, gently and without bitterness, made it somehow even harder to hear. He rubbed my back and I stared into the distance, not looking at anything in particular. All my life, I had known such things: seen crucifixes hung over doors, seen paintings of Jesus’ suffering… But now it struck me that there was an actual guy in there. It wasn’t some Greek god, or some bigger-than-life legend, or a TV character. There was a slightly short man with normal skin and a normal pain tolerance, who actually felt all this. And he was standing here in my kitchen now, holding me.

I could feel tears dripping down my face. Whatever I might personally believe about J, I knew he was good, and the idea of someone hurting him so badly just killed me inside.

“But you’re never angry about it. So much pain. How could…” I swallowed. “How could you even feel so much pain?”

He sighed. “Beloved, people are tortured every day, all over the Earth, often for the very things I taught them. I’m not denying that it hurt — it was almost unbearable. But for that part, I had only to survive; I could count a certain number of hours out, and then it would be finished.” He swallowed, took my head in his hands, and looked directly into my eyes. “But what hurt worse was feeling all of your sins and pain. Because I carried you.” I tensed as I remembered the dream I’d had.

He held me close and stroked my hair. After a while like this, he turned his head and asked, “Do you want to talk about this?” And I knew what he was asking me.

Suddenly scared, I said “no”, and wriggled out of his embrace. I literally ran from the room, leaving behind pieces of broken dishes and J, also broken, to clean up my mess.

Naked

Maybe I’m just crazy for thinking about this one, but it’s something I’m surprised that I’ve never heard discussed…

It is actually very comforting to me to know that, in some moments of life, God has been naked. Out of all the words we could pick to describe God, it’s probably one of the last we would ever think of, just as its the last we might pick to describe any great person who has, by human necessity, been, at some point, naked. But it points to something important in our faith: God has truly taken the time to be vulnerable.

There have been other gods who have been naked, to be sure. Especially with the Greek gods, there were frequent macabre displays of gods showing off their masculine prowess, most especially by raping or seducing human women. As a woman, I always wondered how any woman could wholeheartedly practice any of these religions. If you were beautiful and a virgin – or really, any woman – how did you develop trust and intimacy with a god you knew would gladly take advantage of you?

Jesus was the opposite. While he readily accepted the beautiful and the pure, he just as readily accepted the rest. He drew women who were sexually dysfunctional, loose, used, and downtrodden (John 8:3-11, Matthew 21:31-32, Luke 7:36-50). He enchanted prostitutes and adulterers, people who were possibly prior sex abuse victims, or were at least destroying their own lives with sex. And to each one of these women, he expressed peace, he expressed interest, and he expressed genuine love. He established intimacy with them, even physical intimacy, in ways that were acceptable to God (Luke 7:36-50, Mark 5:24-36, Matthew 28:9) And he behaved himself. Surrounded by women who were sexually immoral and looking for solace, women he could have easily used, he put his own needs aside, establishing purity and validation in the process. Despite what some pop culture movies say, Jesus probably died a virgin. He definitely didn’t fornicate, and while marital sex is blessed by God, Jesus probably put aside his chance at happiness in a normal human marriage as well (2 Corinthians 5:21a)(John 7:3-5, John 19:25, Mark 16:16)(Revelations 19:7-8, Ephesians 5:22-32).

Remember that, in a world where so many people suffer forms of sexual abuse, the Son of God carefully chose the manner and the steps of how he would die (1 Peter 1:11, Psalm 22, Isaiah 52-54). And when it was time for him to take on the full suffering of humankind, one of the steps he deliberately chose for this suffering was to have his clothes removed – not in some kind of display of masculinity, but as a form of shame and humiliation. Just think  – for anyone who has ever been sexually abused or shamed for their body in any way, who calls on the name of the Lord – they call on someone who distinctly remembers being stripped naked in front of onlookers who spat on him and drove nails through his body. What an incredible depth of sympathy, to have someone to talk to who has been physically shamed. We as women, as victims, as all the different people from different walks of life who have been scarred, we talk to a God who has been through terrible pain, humiliation, and yes, nakedness. And while many people in the world think that God is just “made up”, I could not have made up a God that was more wonderfully accessible.

God bless you.

Morgan Grace Hart

The Cleft of His Heart

(Image courtesy of Jim Berry, www.cayman365.com)

In my mind’s eye, while I was praying, I saw myself coming up to Jesus on the cross, seeing Him bleeding and hurting, so indescribably torn up. I started to cry, and reached up to touch His injured feet with my hands. He smiled at me, as best He could with His face so beaten, and His voice was filled with affection for me. “If my hands were free to do so,” He told me, “I’d hug you right now.” I cried and cried, and finally said to Him, “Jesus, I care about You. It’s so painful to see You so…broken.” “Yes,” He said, “but the breaks are where you get in. They’re openings. Just like the cleft in the rock where you are held safe, so the fissures of my Heart are carved out for you, a place for you to be hidden.” [This was also in answer to some prayertime I had had with Him recently, about what to do if you really need a safe place to go for rest, but aren’t physically able to leave where you are.] He continued, “as an infant is safe inside its mother’s womb, so you can rest safe inside of Me.”

I kept imagining it, as my kind of peace-image: being at total peace in my Lord Christ, in the depths of His heart, in stasis in the warmth and nourishment of His Blood.

God bless you,

Morgan Grace Hart

Exodus 33:18-23; John 6:53-59; Romans 6:11