I've talked previously about my prayer practice that ends with me knocking on the door of Christ's home and asking entrance. He always invites me in, always sits with me, always listens to me. Sometimes he offers me a blessing. Sometimes he embraces me for a long, long time. Sometimes he lifts me into his arms and whispers to me that I am good enough. To me, this has been one of the most transformative parts of my return to faith. The sense that Christ is there with me through all the parts of my life lingers long after my prayer is over. I can close my eyes anytime throughout the day and feel His presence at my side, as well as His acceptance and love.
This past week, dealing with old anxieties about my place in Mormonism, I found myself knocking on Christ's door and unable to walk across the threshold, despite his beckoning to me with a smile on his face. I don't know why this happened. I doubt it has anything to do with Christ. He hasn't changed. As I said, He is always there, waiting for me to step inside and partake of His love for me. But nonetheless, I couldn't step inside. I felt as if I wasn't worthy enough, wasn't faithful enough, that my doubts were too enormous even for Him to overcome. Having been an atheist for so long, it is sometimes very hard to let go of the default that any spiritual experience in life is simply a delusion born of psychological need and the reality of my upbringing.
If I doubted that the Christ in my vision was real, did that mean I wasn't really a Christian? And if I wasn't a Christian, then what place did I have in Christ's home? Surely I didn't deserve to step inside, to partake of the fullness of Christ's love. It should be enough for me to stand outside and just peer in to the world that I had rejected years ago.
But Christ didn't shrug and say, when you're ready to come inside, I'll be here waiting. He didn't sigh and shake His head and close the door and tell me that I was right, that I needed to come back when I was feeling stronger and more faith-filled. He didn't remind me of all the mistakes I make on a daily basis, when I am not kind enough even to those who love me, when I focus on all the things that don't matter instead of the ones that do.
What happened to me was that Christ didn't hesitate a moment at the door. When I didn't step inside as I had done so many times before, He asked me what was wrong.
"I'm so full of doubt. I don't belong here," I said.
He nodded to this and then simply stepped outside of the house. "I'll sit with you here," He said, settling Himself on the steps of the porch and patting at the wood to indicate that I should sit with Him. "I love your doubts as much as any of the rest of you. We'll just wait here together with them."
So there I sat on the porch steps with Jesus, His arm around me, lightly affirming His love for me, for a long time.
There was no need for further words between us. He didn't coax me to stand up and go back into the house while He was with me. He knew that I wasn't sure that He was really there, that I was really there on that porch with Him. My atheist, practical self doubts everything at times. But His attitude was so simple and so loving. There was no need to be embarrassed, it seemed. He had no recriminations to offer me. He was there, always, no matter where I was. He would come to me if I would let Him and He would wait with me.
I thought of all the stories in the scriptures of the people Christ touched while here on earth, people who were not worthy of His love. The woman caught in adultery. The Centurion's daughter. The publicans and sinners. The little children His disciples tried to shoo away. The woman with an issue of blood. The lame man. The lepers. The blind. We focus so often on the stories of physical healing, but that seems to me the least of what Christ did for these people. When He stood beside them and acknowledged their pain and looked them in the eyes or touched them and said that they belonged, that it didn't matter what their problems were, that they were His, surely that was the greatest gift?
At church, there are often times when I feel like I don't belong. Maybe I'm wrong and I belong more than I think. Maybe if I worked harder to reach across the differences there, I would feel less alienated. But I can also go sit on the porch steps and close my eyes and sit with Jesus, with whom I always belong. If this is a delusion of mine, it seems a remarkably kind one.