If you’re like me, we often miss Jesus because we’re not looking for him. Or, if we are looking for him, we are looking for him in the wrong places, through lenses of worldly versions of glory, power and success. We expect him to show up at the big spectacular events, the shiny buildings and the gatherings of the well to dos and have it togethers. We expect to see him clean, wealthy, with shining teeth, a slight tan and a full wallet. Basically we look for him to show up looking like us, or at least our “American Dream” version of us.
Sometimes he does show up in these places, but as a beggar or as a prostitute or as a shame-filled Christian with huge awkward baggage and shuffling feet and eyes to the ground. He doesn’t show up as anyone we would want to invite to our small group; especially not someone we would want to invite over to our home for dinner! He might show up smelly and disheveled, with empty hands and an empty wallet. We don’t think he would show up like that, so we miss him. If we do see him, we’re much more likely to be disgusted and repelled by him, writing him off as a “loser.” He chooses to dwell in the utterly ordinary.
Growth in the Christian life is learning to wake up to the ways Jesus actually comes, opening our eyes to how he chooses to show up, letting him be the savior that he chooses to be and not the savior we would make for ourselves. In this endeavor, I found Frederick Buechner’s words especially powerful:
JESUS IS APT TO COME, into the very midst of life at its most real and inescapable. Not in a blaze of unearthly light, not in the midst of a sermon, not in the throes of some kind of religious daydream, but . . . at supper time, or walking along a road. This is the element that all the stories about Christ's return to life have in common: Mary waiting at the empty tomb and suddenly turning around to see somebody standing there—someone she thought at first was the gardener; all the disciples except Thomas hiding out in a locked house, and then his coming and standing in the midst; and later, when Thomas was there, his coming again and standing in the midst; Peter taking his boat back after a night at sea, and there on the shore, near a little fire of coals, a familiar figure asking, "Children, have you any fish?"; the two men at Emmaus who knew him in the breaking of the bread. He never approached from on high, but always in the midst, in the midst of people, in the midst of real life and the questions that real life asks. (Magnificent Defeat)
Jesus shows up in the common, the mundane, the ordinary – not because this stuff is particularly “more holy” than the rest, but because it is what 99% of our lives are made of. We want to live in the 1% of glory, fame and success. Jesus waits for us in the 99% of cleaning toilets, waiting in lines at the DMV or the grocery store, mowing grass, changing diapers and wiping away drool, cleaning up dog poop and a million other mundane and useless places that make up our everyday lives. Let’s take time to be silent and enter the meaninglessness of our everyday lives, because God waits for us there in the person of his Son. Look for him in the face of the weak and despised around us.
Who has believed what he has heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (Isaiah 53:1-3 ESV)