David B Seaburn Ph.D., L.M.F.T.

Going Out Not Knowing

What Does it Mean to “Find Jesus” in this Day and Age?

Being there for “others.”

Posted Jan 08, 2017

Suffering/commons.wikimedia.org
Source: Suffering/commons.wikimedia.org

Our granddaughters, Gianna and Makayla, helped us decorate our Christmas tree this year. When my wife and I were dating many, many years ago, my home town minister and his wife gave us a small crèche, just Mary, Joseph and, of course, baby Jesus. Small unadorned ceramic figures. They have been under our tree for over forty years.

This year Gianna was concerned because all she could find was Mary and Joseph. We busily continued to decorate while she continued to search for Jesus. Suddenly she cried out, “I found Jesus! I found Jesus!” My wife and I laughed because it sounded like Gianna had answered an altar call and had had a spiritual awakening.

In the last days, weeks and months of 2016, with everything that has happened in our country, I have found myself looking for a spiritual awakening of sorts. Looking for some foundation upon which to stand in a time when every foundation seems to be crumbling. I started re-reading my favorite theological and spiritual writers---philosophical theologian Paul Tillich; Trappist monk, Thomas Merton; Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, to name a few; Jewish theologian Martin Buber, to name a few. Each has tried to unearth the meaning that is at the heart of all meaning, what lives inside of life, what many call God, the Old Testament’s great “I am.” All of these thinkers point to the Something More that stirs life and gives it meaning.

I also found myself, like Gianna, looking for Jesus, returning to writers like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a minister and theologian who was killed by the Nazis because of his faith and his opposition to Hitler’s regime. In his Letters and Papers from Prison, Bonhoeffer speaks to the flesh and blood nature of the holy when he calls Jesus “the man for others.” 

I have found myself lingering on that simple definition, especially in this time when “others” are often the target of our suspicion and bigotry and hatred. What does it mean to say that the essence of the Holy is manifest in being the “man for others”?

When I look at the Jesus story, the answer is simple. He was someone who was born to a family in poverty and exile, hunted and on the run from his home even as a baby; someone who grew into a person who wrestled with God, who wept and laughed, who gathered others close to him, who was grasped by the Ground of all Being; someone who defied religious and secular authority, who reached out to, stood with, healed, and freed those who were seen as outcast and unclean, those who were “other”; someone who lived with fierce compassion and who suffered and died because of who he was, what he did, and what he believed.  Of course, for most Christians there is more to the story. But this is plenty.

I guess that “finding Jesus,” more than anything else, more than religious practices and beliefs, means that as a human being I am called to be there for all those “others” that are set aside, abused, forgotten, disowned, rejected, hated. I have been a Christian since childhood. I have been a minister along the way. But never has this “calling” felt more important than it does today.

David B. Seaburn is a writer. His most recent novel is More More Time (http://www.amazon.com/More-Time-David-B-Seaburn/dp/0991562232). Seaburn is also a retired marriage and family therapist, psychologist and minister.