I believe firmly that one of the greatest purposes we have as believers of Christ left in a dying world is to bear witness to Him. Is that not implied in the Great Commission? Is that not the crux of evangelism? Who is Jesus? Probably that belongs among the most complicated and most simple questions of our world. Yet, this is the great responsibility of the Church: to know Christ and to make Him known. As the Body of Christ, I believe we each have a story to tell, a piece of the whole picture of who He is. For God tells His story ultimately through a person (John 1:1 The Word) therefore how much more would He continue that story through us? This is my story — or at least a chapter of it:
I shook the dust from my white robe before sliding one arm through, and then the other.
Tying it tightly around my waist, I took a deep breath.
Would it fit still, did it look alright?
I stepped in front of the mirror to examine myself.
I spotted a speck and rapidly brushed at it. It did not budge. I dampened my forefinger and wiped the speck. Still, it remained – and now spread itself wider through the inviting water as it soaked through the thin material.
I turned my body to get a closer look in the mirror. What was that? I wondered. How did my white-washed robe get stained?
I shook my head. I was late. I couldn’t hold out for a tiny little speck.
Departing quickly, I left the image of the man in the mirror behind, so that I could fully embrace the day.
When I came home that evening, I had completely forgotten the speck. It had been a hectic, and somewhat perplexing day. I was scheduled to meet with my rabbi, and then my parents, to solidify my commitment to the synagogue. This was where I wanted to be. This was the fulfillment of my childhood dreams, to be a minister of God for the rest of my life. It was the highest calling, and in so doing, perhaps I could be that much closer to the God I so longed to know.
At my appointment with the rabbi, he had been oddly stand-offish. He kept trying to tell me something, in a hurried whisper. But I couldn’t make it out, and so I’d simply nodded and smiled, and went on with my recitations of Scripture and the Misnah. Upon completion, I had trembled in waiting for his judgment of my performance. Had it been good enough?
At that moment, my parents came into view, in the back of the dusty, dry room. My mom kept trying to mouth something to me, and my dad made a funny sign at me with his hands. But I could not comprehend what they were trying to say. So I smiled and waved hello, and turned back to my teacher to see if he had tallied up the score.
I caught his eye and he looked up and nodded approvingly. Relief had flooded my senses, and I sighed with great contentment. I had passed.
Later, as my parents took me to lunch to celebrate with the rest of the family, my grandfather had turned and told me he had been praying that I would know the love of God. I thanked him with all sincerity – this dear faithful man of God meant the world to me. He — and my father — had been the inspiration to my calling into ministry. And now here we were celebrating. Truly, this was a day to remember.
Now, as I reflected back on the day, I felt shame wash over me as I recalled the strange looks of those I passed in the street on my way home. They too seemed to be trying to communicate something to me, but I was missing the message.
Now, I felt ashamed, now I felt embarrassed. Here I was, a true Jewish rabbi, and I was already not in good stance with my parents, my teacher, and the strangers that I may some day teach. What was to be said of this?
I returned to the mirror and studied my face intently, determined to make sense of these strange interactions.
Just as I spotted the speck, a bright light flashed before me, and something like scales fell from my eyes. And in the same moment, I saw my robe go from white to black, and the speck I’d almost nearly forgotten about, grow large and ominous, a festering brownish plank of something indeterminable.
“Child. Do you know who I am?” A voice penetrated my heart and mind, though it was not audible.
My whole inside felt as though it might crumble into pieces of nothingness. Oh to see a face to associate with the voice! I thought.
“I know not, my lord.” I uttered.
“I am whom thou seekest.”
The blackness of the robe I bore on my body filled my vision. Darkness encompassed me. I thrust my hands before me in an attempt to feel around me, to take in my surroundings.
“Where are you, lord?” I spoke.
“I am the light in your darkness. I am the night and I am the day, for darkness is as light to me.”
“But I cannot see you, lord.”
A command came forth: “Open your eyes.”
“Lord, open my eyes!” I cried.
As tears began to fall, my vision grew first blurry, then began to clear, the tears seeming to wash through the darkness.
When I regained my sight, I was naked, my blackened robe at my feet. “But I am naked, my lord! You do not wish to-”
He interrupted me. “I see you as you are.”
I hung my head in shame, almost automatically without thinking…but in some strange way, it almost seemed feigned to me. I spoke: “Then I have nothing.”
Though I still could not see His form, I sensed a smile had come over His face. “Yes, yes! Now you see.”
Neither of us spoke for a time, the moment seemed to be frozen in time.
At last, He broke the silence. “Leave your robe and take mine.” An almost blindingly pure white robe slipped into my fingers. I could barely hold it, I was so undone by His words – this full acceptance, this admittance of my need for covering, of my nakedness, and yet this beautiful provision – and it was His. For as He slid the robe over my arms, a shape began to form in my view.
It was a man. And He was naked.
At the vision, I yearned to rip the robe from my body, but He had already placed it on me, and its warmth had already begun to spread throughout my body that had been cold and trembling.
“Please,” He said, “chose this robe today…and tomorrow…and all the tomorrows after that. It suits you much better for the task I have set before you.”
And in that moment, the room went black and then it was day again, and the vision of the man was gone. And I was in my bed, the dawn of my ordination still before me.
If you are an avid reader of Scripture, I suspect you will have noticed several themes throughout this dream sequence narrative: the speck and plank, the dirty rag of self-righteousness, the scales falling from the eyes of a Pharisee. I hope I have not offended you by borrowing these beautiful analogies, for they tell my tale well. I am not the apostle Paul, and I have not seen the blinding vision of Christ that he saw. But I have been the Pharisee like he was – with the sincerest desires, yet ill-fitted for honoring God, because they were corrupted by knowledge that puffs up into pride, and a blinding sense of self-righteousness. This is my journey – one in which the love of God that surpasses knowledge is only barely coming into view, as I gain a deeper awareness of the full acceptance of my complete and utter failure to “measure up”, and the full and complete provision of that precious blood-bought white robe of Christ’s righteousness. I too was once a Pharisee, and am by God’s amazing grace, becoming made-new as I continue to “comprehend together with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge…” Eph. 3:19