Ever since I was a child in Sunday school, I have always been fascinated with Jesus. As a child, I saw Jesus as a Magician, since many of the lessons in Sunday school focused on his miracles. And in my mind, I connected Jesus' miracle stories to a David Copperfield-like holy man.
As I’ve gotten a bit older, I’ve come to see that Jesus’ spirituality is a dramatically different than mine. Jesus seems to embrace the most ordinary of circumstances and places, finding within them rich sources of spiritual meaning. He spends the most considerable part of his time in the most everyday settings—homes, neighborhoods, and marketplaces—identifying and responding to the presence of God.
Like so many people, I've compartmentalized my life. I have my "spiritual moments" when I'm looking for some sign from God—guidance, wisdom, and insight. And then I have my "other moments," such as meetings, meals, teeth brushing, paying bills, doctor's appointments, and all of the "distractions" along the way—times where I'm not exactly looking for God.
But in taking a closer look at Jesus' life, he models a very different way of living. Jesus’ life shows that God’s presence isn’t limited to the spiritual stuff. It was the ordinary things of his daily life that Jesus noticed the sacred snapshots: living pictures possessing a message capable of nudging people closer to a life bearing witness to God’s intimate involvement in the world. So when I read the Gospels, I meet someone who doesn’t compartmentalize his life between the things that are sacred and the things that we might call “secular” activity.
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day associated a God-centered life with a “Godsits high” view that sided with the “spiritual”: the temple (the place where people met God), and religious practices (living out a specific moral code). In contrast to these religious leaders, Jesus didn’t center the entirety of his spirituality on things considered sacred. Instead, God's spirit extraordinarily resided with Jesus—a sort of spirit-filled buffer zone that affected everything within a mile of his presence. Jesus had a divine nature as well as a very human nature.
Many of my life experiences—especially my health challenges of kidney disease which led me down the road of two kidney transplants (the first in 2005 and last in 2012), have led me back to my early fascination of following Jesus. Looking on those hospital visits during my health struggles, I encountered a lot of different people who saw spirituality on very different levels.
When the hospital staff found out that I was a minister, in their attempts to bring comfort to me, they would often find ways to switch the conversation to God. Their efforts didn't bother me much since most of the times their comments were consistent with their actions.
For instance, my nurse Catherine, who was a “mothering hen” type who was a bit bossy, always reminded me of God’s goodness—especially when she had to come in at 4:35 am in the morning to draw blood. There was Mr. John, the weekend custodian who came to clean my room. He always greeted me with, “Good morning Brother Brown, how was your night? I’m here to clean your room.” Although he made it clear to me that he was working a third job to support his grandkids, he never complained about having to clean rooms.
But there were other staff members, who would “talk the spiritual talk” but wouldn’t necessarily “walk the spiritual walk.” At least this is what I gathered in overhearing their “loud” cell phone calls when they entered the room and their desire to want me to leave the television to TMZ, Maury, Judge Karen or the latest gossip show when I was scrolling to find something meaningful to watch and bide my time. Trying not to pass judgment, I sought to use these experiences to reflect on Jesus’ walks on dusty roads, in the graveyards, and in the outer regions of Galilee where he found people who were living a life that reflects some of God’s nature. It didn't work, and I found myself judging these people and later asking God to forgive me.
I'm still fascinated with Jesus and his spirituality. Jesus' first disciples were blind to the way that Jesus needed them to see the world, and sometimes I am too. During my hospital stays, I discovered a new way of seeing. I found new images to illustrate what it means to live as people who express the presence of God in their daily lives. I saw in living-color, mundane actions of checking vital signs, saying hello, and mopping floors become holy actions of ordinary people. I saw faith in action. I saw love in action. I saw people who didn’t compartmentalize their lives, but lived life to the fullness to embrace what Frankie Beverly and Maze once sang:
But when the world is down on
Always hurting each other if it ain’t one thing it’s another
Seems the things that turn you on turn you around
Don’t it seem we go through life going up and downyou love's somewhere around
Well it seems to me that
Over and over you can be sure there will be sorrow, but you will endure where there's a flower, there's the sun and the rain
Oh, and it's wonderful there both one in the same. Joy and pain are like sunshine and rain.
On the Journey,