Jesus In The Room

As you may or may not know, for the last several months, I’ve been going to counseling.  In essence, I believe I have been under heavy spiritual attack which led me down a path of dark thoughts and depression.  Why this has been happening to me is complicated, but in short, I believe it’s because I’ve not been establishing necessary boundaries and taking care of myself the ways I should have been.
If you’ve never been to counseling, it’s essentially a road to self-discovery.  I needed to understand why I am who I am and what I do, and where I need to go from here.  Most counseling sessions theoretically sound like this:  I say something direct like, “My teeth have been hurting me.”  The counselor then responds, “Oh?  Tell me what things were like when you were growing up…How does your toothache relate to your relationship with your dad?”
So, it often feels as if we’re not getting anywhere.  However, on my road to self-discovery I have encountered something that is difficult to talk about and even harder for me to understand.  At the beginning of last week’s sermon, as I began my message in front of the congregation, I recalled how I started getting into the habit of clearing out my passenger seat and buckling the seat belt because it helped me to imagine Jesus riding shotgun with me.  Another thing that I often do is when I’m placing my hands on someone and praying for them, I try to visualize Jesus with his hand on them as well.  This is helpful for me to see Jesus with me everywhere I go.  I even asked the congregation if there was anywhere they wouldn’t invite Jesus to.
Well, this week in counseling, I found a place I haven’t invited Jesus into and honestly feel like he isn’t welcome.  I know it’s highly hypocritical for me to say that Jesus isn’t welcome somewhere when I just told the congregation that Jesus should be welcome everywhere!  I think when I initially said this, it was with functional places in mind; church, special events, home on the couch, work, a hospital operating room, etc.  But what about the dysfunctional places?
If you don’t know this, I grew up in a dysfunctional home that incidentally was also a pastor’s home.  These two adjectives don’t seem like they should go in the same sentence, but it’s where I grew up.  A home is not necessarily dysfunctional because an alcoholic lives there, for my dad never drank.  It isn’t necessarily dysfunctional because sexual abuse was taking place; my dad never harmed us in a way like this.  A home is dysfunctional because it focuses all of it’s attention on the emotional needs of one individual and neglects the emotional needs of others.  This is why a home of an alcoholic is considered to be dysfunctional because everyone in the home is focused around what the alcoholic is going to do next time they get drunk.  Because of the shame the alcoholic brings upon the family, they are forced to “keep the family secret”. Perhaps you experienced growing up in a dysfunctional home as I did.
In counseling, I was recalling an event that happened when I was a child.  I was somewhere around 8 or 9 years old.  Unknown to me, my dad had recently replaced the ceiling tiles in our bedroom.  I guess I never seemed to notice things like that.  Anyway, as I walked into my bedroom one day, I saw my older brother throwing a miniature dart up into the ceiling.  Understand that younger brothers think their older brothers must have hung the moon and will do anything they see their older sibling doing.  So, I started throwing the dart up into the ceiling as well.  We were having a lot of fun doing it until my dad found us.  At that point, we had thrown the dart up in the ceiling around 100-200 times, ruining the ceiling tiles he had worked hard to install.
I won’t share with you the full details of the aftermath.  My siblings and parents know what happened that day.  I talk about it with my wife occasionally (she tells me it’s taken years to get the full story from beginning to end), I’ve even talked about it with my counselor, but I’m just not willing share it with you.  Just understand that the event was heavily traumatic and abusive.  Not just physically abusive, but emotionally and psychologically abusive as well.  Because of who my dad was  (and I say “was” because I believe he is a different man today) and what he did for a living, events like these became a family secret.  It would have ruined the image my dad tried to uphold at this church.  So this event became just another thing we swept under the rug and never addressed.  I’m sharing this with you, not to discredit the reputation of my father (for I truly believe he is a great man), but to express that there is at least one place where I don’t want Jesus to be present.
Every week after counseling, I have homework to do.  My assignment is to walk through a work-book called, “Making Peace With Your Past” that was written by a Baptist minister who grew up in an alcoholic home.  In the work-book, he says, “Some people find it helpful to imagine Jesus in the midst of a painful memory.”
I don’t have any difficulty imagining Jesus standing in the audience of my eight grade graduation.  It’s not difficult for me to imagine him sitting in my office next to me as I write this article.  It’s not even difficult for me to imagine him standing in the room with me as I took another hit off a marijuana pipe.  However, it has become increasingly difficult for me to imagine Jesus in that room that day.  Where in the world would he be standing and what would be doing?  Let me give you a different scenario that some might be all to familiar with.  Imagine being in bed as a small child, and a grown man slips into your bed and begins forcing you to do things you don’t want to do.  Is Jesus in the room then, too?  If so, where is he standing and what is he doing?!?!
Is Jesus in the abuser?  For obvious reasons, NO!  Is Jesus in the abused?  Jesus isn’t helpless like I was that day.  So where is he?  Is he standing in the corner being a silent observer?  If so, why didn’t he do something to stop it?
Initially, I rejected the idea that Jesus was in the room.  I dismissed the idea by saying, “Jesus wasn’t in the room, that was the problem!”
But then, I talked to one of my friends who knows scripture and is very wise.  He reminded me of a verse that Jesus said in Matthew 28:20, “And surely, I am with you always.  Even to the end of the age.”
As uncomfortable as it makes me, Jesus was in the room with us that day.  But he wasn’t the abuser, nor was he the abused.  So does that mean he was the silent observer?  Again, my friend with wisdom unlocked a new possibility in my mind.  A possibility where Jesus could be in the room and all that could still take place.  In that room, Jesus was on the cross.
Every outburst of cruelty, every expression of rage, every moment of heartache, every aspect of abuse, was simply my father holding the hammer that drove in the spikes that went through Jesus’ hands and feet.  And all the while, Jesus was looking down on my father and saying, “Forgive him, for he knows not what he does.  My grace is sufficient, even for this.”
To my brother and I who wept bitterly on the floor, Jesus was whispering in our ears, “I know the men you are to become to bring me the most glory.  I hate that you must endure this abuse to become those men, but I will use even this to do great things!”
It breaks my heart to imagine all the times I have stood with the very same hammer in my hand, driving in the spikes.  In my life, I have experienced several episodes of heartache and tragic loss.  I have experienced times when I wept bitterly, cursed angrily, and worshiped joyfully; each directed towards the Lord.  And in the times where my sorrow was great, he has always been with me, comforting me.  When I cursed angrily towards him, he was silent and patient.  When I worshiped him joyfully, he was at work before me.  When I sinned openly, he laid there as I drove in the spikes.  When I acknowledged my sin and looked to him with shame in my eyes, he forgave me.
Perhaps there’s a room from your memories that you have great difficulty imagining Jesus in.  Perhaps it’s a room of abuse, like mine.  Maybe it’s a room of great shame and embarrassment.   Can you picture Jesus there?  It has been extremely difficult for me to imagine Jesus in that room with me.  It gives me great discomfort to see him there.  However, if he weren’t present, the purpose of that room would have been meaningless.  I must be conformed into the image of Christ.  So, I have surrendered the room over, and to him I say, “You are welcome to come inside!”
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with them, and they with me.” – Revelation 3:20 (NIV)