In a small crowded living room my back leans forward, forearms on my knees. We are early on in John and for moments I am reminded of myself. Of my prayers to be like the disciple whom Jesus loved. Of journal writings of daily prayers of feeling changed and on fire and of the weight of the realization of how it feels to be at the other end of that spectrum I have nestled into. Of the numbness. Of the distance. Of how among the impassioned declarations I am prone to be the outstretched arms; the hands up, ingrained muscle memory of all the ways I push Jesus away. Of the love that I fight.
And then a voice rolls into the room. A warm dialect telling of how each day he doesn’t go home without sharing the gospel with someone. I sit up off of my thighs. He says that he picks one person and tells them about his story and Jesus. I feel my skin crawl and push my back against the wall as if that will stop the emotions from moving. I strike against it all and encourage him to be careful out of assumption that he is just like everyone else. As I speak I feel the burned in memories of those who tried to evangelize me. I feel my whole body tighten up, still unable to see the beauty and ignorant of the significance. His words roll around some more and fill the room like holi powder in the air, his voice like the warmth of the sun. I still feel annoyed. I still feel taken aback. I still feel Sylvia and how she asked me point blank in the parking lot in our uniforms in the morning coolness “have you found Jesus yet Emily?” and how she offered to tell me about him. How although I had listened to her for 25, 30 minutes I couldn’t listen anymore because somehow it scared me. I recalled how I fled suddenly aware that we should be working. That an hour had passed in mere moments. That I didn’t know Jesus. That I had the familiar comfort of parking citations to write. How my eyes welled up, enraged as I drove away from her brown skin and crooked teeth in that lot not wanting to think about Jesus and all the ways I didn’t know him. I hear voices encouraging him for sharing. His dark eyes say that he is going to be at Bart approaching people. I think of the mid-30’s man who worked at CVS. Of the blue eyes. Of how he wrote his phone number down on receipt paper. Of the awkward first few dates and all the ways he reached for me. Of crying in his car, of a rush for Jesus. Of asking him what Yahweh means in the bible he gave me. Of the deep pull of him finally kissing me. Of how his demons crawled out of him and stood around us. Of feeling like I couldn’t escape his grasping arms or the things he intentionally just happened to have left behind. Of the unevenness of my ignorance and feeling taken advantage of. Of the sadness of a born again touting Yahweh. Of giving him his bible back outside the expansive glass library. Of how a few weeks of knowing him scared me so much that I stopped letting my friend take me to church. Of the first time I told God that I needed to do things in my time. Of the peace of hands that could control and again rise up. Lifelong fists protecting my face, elbows turned in against the bad. Their voices don’t hear me. They popcorn around and talk more about the bible and how he isn’t wasting his time. I breathe in still annoyed and think back to Ventura. Of coffee with the man I loved more than myself. Of the beauty in him, of how I never saw his chair as anything beyond him or in place of him. Of how it would be years before I could realize the significance of loving a man who can’t walk. Of understanding his world I had entered. Of finally being able to see God in the intimacy of self-sacrificing love. I can still feel the way my neck craned up at the stranger who approached us and asked the man I loved if he could walk. “No man, I can’t,” he said, with his hands resting on thighs he only felt through memories. Of how the stranger wanted to pray anyway. Of how he told us eagerly. Of how baffled I was at again the word Jesus. “New legs,” he said. Of how all the prayers in the world couldn’t touch him. Of how certain I was in that moment of a lack of tact and how my heart went out to my man as he said “You’re making me real uncomfortable man.” Of stares I never felt always lingering in our direction. Of again how we rolled away from Jesus. Of how years later I still don’t believe in the healing of the pick up your mat and walk. Of the faithful and the ways I cannot touch their faith with my clenched fists. And then their voices again. And they’re still telling him, still encouraging. Then one of them says that the people who didn’t listen, they weren’t ready and that people will shut out his efforts and be against Jesus. I think of my numbness and how tired I feel. Of the ache. Of the ways I am still against Jesus. Of the comfort of my thumb locked over my closed fingers of how they feel against the inside of my palms. Of my tear streaked face seeking prayer. Of the reliability of the ways I internalize the broken things I have yet to give fully to Jesus. Of how she looked at me and asked, “What do you want?” of Jesus hanging by his palms. Of not realizing I have power over my thoughts and the stories I tell myself about things I lack.