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Sharing the insights I discover as I explore and experience the mystery that is our reality. Join me in my journey and share yours.




Saturday, March 29, 2014

Jesus



I thought about Jesus yesterday. It happened rather spontaneously and unexpectedly so I felt prompted to write about it afterwards. I was with a man I work for who is 92 and who I had just taken  to the doctor’s and diagnosed with pneumonia. One unrelated concern he had expressed while at the visit was the pain he felt in his feet and legs because of his dry skin. They gave us samples to take home with us but nobody offered to put lotion on to relieve him of his discomfort right then and there.

Upon arriving back to his house that afternoon I made sure he was comfortable, handing him a cool glass of his favorite juice and then began organizing his pills for the coming week. In the back of my mind I was thinking about the pain in his feet and calves and how he must still be feeling this discomfort which he had complained about even before our trip to his doctor. While making his breakfast that morning he had lamented that it had kept him awake half the night. I knew I would be the last person he saw that day and that it wasn’t in my job description to apply any lotion to him. If I were to do things like that I would take on a different “title” and be paid more. None of his other aids that came to his house were paid to do that, nor did it seem very likely they would,  having heard about their limited willingness to do extra things for his comfort in the past. If he wanted it done he would have to do it himself and, having Parkinson’s and limited mobility, the chances of that were low.

Everyone has their own sense of comfort with things and I have never been much of one to enjoy touching other people that I am not particularly close to. It would not be unreasonable necessarily to shrug off his needs coldly and simply ignore them- using the description of my limited role at his home as an excuse. Surely I was not expected to help out in such a way as applying lotion to him.  However, I couldn’t help but think that to reject such an opportunity to help another would go against my “job description” as a human being.

As I was nearly done with my shift I began filling out the appropriate paperwork and my eye caught view of the sample tube of lotion in my periphery. I looked up and saw him shifting his legs uncomfortably while seated on his favorite pull-out chair worn from years of use.


“Is your skin still bothering you?” A dumb question for sure. “If you’d like I can help put some lotion on.”
 


His eyes lit up and he responded in the affirmative.

 

I inhaled deeply  and took hold of the bottle of lotion and knelt down in front of his legs.  As I squeezed a generous sized lump of the cool white solution onto my hands I remarked that he should feel a lot better after his skin was hydrated and truly hoped this would be so. The skin on his calves and feet, almost a century old, was very delicate and I had to be gentle and careful as to not be too rough and cause any damage. It was desperately thin and shifted around under my hands as I moved about, slowly working from his calves downwards.

An image of Jesus flashed in my mind. Of him washing his disciple’s feet. Of him serving others with compassion and walking amidst the most broken among us. It occurred to me that when I think of the sort of heart I am aspiring to have-one of love and compassion, one that longs to serve and help, it is the heart of Jesus that I see myself as wanting to aspire to. Even though I am now probably the furthest thing  from being a Christian, the thought of Jesus still inspires me and floods my consciousness with a sense of peace. I felt a sense of love, compassion and joy. Love and compassion for this man who I have come to know over the past couple of months and a sense of joy in being able to serve him. It seems that the highest expression of love is service. And the world would be undoubtedly a more habitable and peaceful place if more people felt inspired to simply serve those around them. Not just humans either, but all sentient beings.

As I drove home that day my cynical nature took over while pondering Jesus and questions came up regarding his true nature as expressed in the New Testament. Yes, he served others and taught compassion but then there is the fact that he walked amidst so many broken people and yet chose to not heal everyone. Also, he taught and preached an exclusive rather than inclusive path. Not everyone was welcomed into God's arms at their passing. You know, the whole "narrow is the path" concept. (Matthew 7:12-14)  Perhaps all of that is a  subject for another post though. Regardless, I think having archetypes-images that can embody ideas and realities that are meaningful and inspiring to us and that help explain facets of our nature in a way that sometimes words fall short, can be useful. And in this instance, on that afternoon, the image of Jesus manifested itself unprovoked as a clear archetype for compassion and service.


Thoughts? I'd love to hear them. Please leave them in the comments section. Thanks!

23 comments:

  1. What a beautiful story, Jessica. As a post-theist, I can still find valuable lessons in religious scriptures. In them, one can learn timeless truths about ways humans can live together in peace. I no longer need there to have been a literal Jesus for there to be some value in some of the teachings. It is highly doubtful that Jesus ever DID wash the feet of his disciples - John is the only account that mentions it, and it was written decades after Jesus supposedly lived. But the myth still holds value.

    In much the same way, there are stories of Muhammad written decades after his death, and similarly, they are questioned as being historical. But that doesn't devalue the humanist lesson contained in the story. This is one that I had heard from my friends at Muslims for Progressive Values that I think demonstrates this. It sounds like a "love your enemy" story that is a good lesson for us all:

    She thought till late at midnight and finally decided how to take revenge from him. She could not sleep all night, because she was too eager to take revenge for the idols she worshiped. Even before the first ray of sunlight had entered her window, she was busy sweeping her house. She saved all the garbage in a basket, placed it on the roof of her house and proudly looked at it for a while, then with an impatient look on her face, she looked at the street that she lived on, and thought, "No one has ever seen him angry. Everybody will praise me when they will see him shouting at me and getting mad. They will laugh at him and make fun of him." She looked at the basket again and grinned.

    Meanwhile, she heard footsteps, announcing the approach of the end of her waiting. "Finally my prey has arrived," she thought, as she saw a man dressed in clean, white clothes coming that way. She picked up the basket in her hands and threw all the garbage on him when he passed by. Much to the woman's disappointment, he did not say anything and continued on his way.

    She did the same the following day thinking, "Maybe this time I will be able to annoy him." But he was too gentle to shout at a woman. She misinterpreted his attitude as fear and decided to repeat the same mischief everyday in order to keep him frightened, so that he might stop preaching the Oneness of God.

    This gentleman whom the woman hated so much was Muhammad (pbuh), the last prophet of Allah Almighty. He did not want to disappoint the woman and so continued to walk down the street everyday, instead of picking an alternate route, and prayed for the woman to recognize the Truth.

    One day, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) did not find the woman to be on the roof of her house with the basket. This worried him, because he thought something must have happened to her for not being over there. So he knocked at the door. "Who is it?" asked a feeble voice. "Muhammad bin Abdullah," was the reply, "can I come in?" The woman feared, "I am sick, and too weak to fight or talk back, therefore Muhammad has come to take revenge for what I have been doing to him." But the permission to enter her house was in such a gentle voice that she allowed him in.

    Muhammad (pbuh) entered the house and told the woman that not finding her on the roof had worried him and he thus wanted to inquire about her health. On finding out how ill she was, he gently asked if she needed any help. Hypnotized by the affectionate tone in the Holy Prophet's (pbuh) blessed voice, she forgot all fear and asked for some water. He kindly gave her some in a utensil and prayed for her health, while she quenched her thirst. This made her feel very guilty for being so cruel to him in the past and she apologized for her mean behavior. He forgave her and came to her house everyday to clean it, to feed her and to pray for her, till she was on her feet again. The kind attitude of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) inspired her into the recognition of the Truth, and his prayers were answered in the form of yet another addition into the growing number of Muslims.


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    1. Thank you so much Jeff. Yes, I think that there is some valuable themes and lessons that can be taken away from religious texts that, I would say, has the possibility of helping to transform one's character and perspective. It all has to do on one's approach and perspective I think. My own personal view is a more dogmatic and literal approach hinders one's progress towards clarity and insight but a more metaphorical approach can, for some, enhance and help such a journey towards understanding.

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  2. Jessica, what a beautiful blogpost you've written, and what a wonderful thing you did for that poor old man not only to deliver him some relief from his painfully dry skin but to provide some elemental human touch that he's probably gone too long without!

    I agree that drawing inspiration from powerful archetypes can be empowering even when one is wise enough not to take them as factual. And if you have trouble doing this with archetypes, I'm sure you can find inspiring examples of real, selfless human beings who have brought much loving care to their fellow humans in need.

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    1. Thank you for stopping by and reading this post Steve. I always enjoy what you have to say. It is my hope that I gave him some relief, it seemed like I had during and after and he did express gratitude towards the endeavor. I was just glad to be able to serve another who needed it.

      I agree that examples of archetypes need not lay just in the world's wisdom literature but can be found in the flesh in modern times. I think it's helpful to have in mind some sort of an idea of what we wish to aspire to, whether that takes on an image or figure or not.

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  3. Awesomely written. Giving your readers something to contemplate.

    Jeff, I don't see the reason or fun of putting this lengthy story here. Would have been easier to link to it.

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    1. Thank you Mark for stopping by and reading this post! I'm glad you enjoyed it. :)

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  4. I'm so glad you chose to ease this man's pain rather than sticking to the minimum requirements of your job! Christians do not have a monopoly on compassion.

    While I disagree with some of your thoughts toward Jesus, I don't your thinking of Him is coincidental. I don't think He is done with you yet

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    1. Jared, thanks for stopping by and I agree that Christians do not have a monopoly on compassion. I think all humans..and some sentient beings, are capable of expressing compassion and empathy. I do think it's a trait that has more of a chance of fully manifesting itself when cultivated.

      Thanks again. :)

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  5. Hi Jessica:
    As always your words are filled with wisdom and grace. Being Christian or not is certainly up for debate. There are many times I question my own Christianity, however I keep coming back to it because it fits like a comfortable pair of slippers.

    Christianity is the only belief I've ever held. Yes I've taken from other worldviews and attached then to my Christian belief system. I'd be willing to bet you did the same, Jessica.

    Being a Christian is more than attending a church, which I don't do
    Being Christian is doing what you did:
    --Showing compassion.
    --Going above and beyond.
    --Giving without expecting anything in return.

    If you look at these three examples I'm sure you'd say that you were still Christian. I think Christianity got all wrapped up with some not so positive stuff. What Jesus preached and what is being preached today is not the same and that's why I have such a challenging time with the church. But I will ALWAYS consider myself Christian first.
    --
    Chris

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    1. Thank you so much Chris for stopping by! I've been thinking of you. I had a real hard time responding to your last post, I hope you ended up getting it!

      I've definitely gotten a lot from different worldviews and right now am focusing a lot on what science has to say about how things work and the nature of reality. It's been a long journey that I don't think ever ends, that's for sure!

      Those three examples do exemplify some of what Christ seemed to stand for. But I'm not sure just believing or practicing them makes one a Christian. I think believing certain claims that Scripture makes characterizes one more as a Christian-like that Jesus died for our sins, etc etc. I no longer adhere to those beliefs, so that's why I don't label myself as a Christian. I'm trying to avoid labels right now..still searching..I guess if I were honest I'd label myself as a skeptic.

      So glad you are finding fulfillment and peace in your beliefs.

      ~ namaste~

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  6. Jessica, I don't know if I've previously shared this with you here, but I've spent too much of my life wondering if my Lord, Jesus, is exactly who He says He is. I now accept without question.
    Do I still have questions? Of, course! But, instead of having angst, I have peace. He is real. He it there in every situation. He loves everyone and wants them to love Him as He knocks patiently at their door.
    Don't let judgmental leaders deter you from the true and indescribable love He has to offer you. Let go and let God. Believe, trust, and continue to love even when it feels impossible.
    In your loving treatment of this elderly gentleman, your heart beats true. Jesus is right there, knowing you remember Him, praying you will not forsake Him.
    Love and blessings, dear one!

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    1. Thank you so much Martha for sharing.

      That's great that you are happy with your relationship with God despite the questions you still have. That you are content with not having all of the answers. To me, it's definitely being honest to admit that one doesn't have all the answers and it's great when someone can still be content and find peace, not restless with such an awareness.

      ~Lots of love~

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  7. Christ lives within you :) You are feeling the call to want to help others, like many of us right now. Accept that calling. It is the beginning of a new movement, all living as one. Namaste

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    1. Thank you for stopping by Miguel. I believe I'm inspired by Christ as an archetype symbolizing compassion and service. I don't really see him in the same light as you do.

      I do believe it would be wonderful if we all lived as one though. :)

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  8. I agree with your comparison. YOU were Christ to that man at that moment. They say He is risen, well yes, Christ is our best self......the one we don't see very often. But you saw Christ in yourself today. A blessing for both you and the elderly man. And btw, touching others, especially elderly people is very hard for me. Would like to be more Christlike as a way of life. The reason I use the name Christ instead of Jesus is because to me Jesus, the man, is only part of Christ, the God within.

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    1. Hi Leanne,

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting on this post. That man has been a real blessing to me the more I've gotten to know and spend time with him. I'm learning all sorts of lessons during our time together. My only hope is that I can reciprocate.

      "The reason I use the name Christ instead of Jesus is because to me Jesus, the man, is only part of Christ, the God within."

      I like the way you put that. I think that's an intriguing perspective. :)

      ~ Namaste~

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  9. Jessica as one of the earlier post put it Jesus is still working in you. I as you am Christian but think more of a follower of Jesus, as Christian seems to mean many different things these days. There is so much of Him in what you did to help that elderly man. The Bible tells us all people have a measure of the Holy Spirit in us. I think that's why we feel compassion and want to serve others and put them first. I can't remember the man's name but he said (paraphrased) "with God only certain things are allowed, without God everything is permissible. " I think you are one of the few that are really searching for truth, trust in Jesus and you will find it. Non believers all have a "way" He should be, because we see only what is in front of us, He see's everything at the same time. Remember, (Mt 5:20) When Jesus is asked later in Matthew’s Gospel, ʺTeacher, which is the greatest of the commandments?ʺ He replies, ʺLove the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." It's all about loving God and loving others. I can't wait to follow you on your journey. God Bless you in all aspects of your life and watch over your coming in and going out and bless your children.

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    1. Thank you so much Barry for your kind words. I know we don't always see things in the same way (maybe an understatement! :) ) but I appreciate your encouragement and optimism regarding my journey. Honestly, I don't know where it will lead as the only thing I've come to really know is the certainty I have in my own sense of uncertainty. I'm just grateful for the skills/practices I've managed to picked up along the way and that I am hopefully developing-like critical thinking and mindfulness-which I think will help with discernment.

      It's always great to hear your thoughts. Thanks again. :)

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  10. Simply beautiful, Jess. And the right thing to do. Jesus knows what's up, huh? :)

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    1. He does provide a beacon of sorts, that's for sure. :) Thank you John for taking the time to read and leave your thoughts. I'm glad you enjoyed it. :)

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  11. I just loved the way you made the reader sit up, take notice and contemplate <3

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