As of yet I have not been able to leave Joshua Station. I have not been able to leave Denver. I have not been able to leave a slightly less than Middle Class income bracket. I don’t mean that someone is keeping me from leaving those things or even that I want to leave those things. What I mean is that I have experienced a sort of satisfaction that can’t fully be described with words. This satisfaction surpasses a quick fix and somehow keeps me coming back for more.
In John’s Gospel Jesus feeds an asinine number of people with an all too modest amount of food. The story gets a lot of press in our Christian tradition, but the Lectionary text I just read picks up some time after that miraculous event. The crowd that was miraculously fed tried to find Jesus, who had done a bit of water walking and joined His disciples on the other side of the lake. When they tracked Him down they asked when He had arrived. To this Jesus replies rather peculiarly—not uncommon of Him. “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.”
I had to read that line a few times. It felt like it was trying to point to something profound in my own experience. He goes on to distinguish the difference between normal food and the food He is referring to—something much deeper. The crowd was pursuing Jesus, but it seems that they might have been confused as to the reason for that pursuit. Jesus tries to help them understand. They had experienced an encounter with the Son of Man. That encounter had fulfilled them in a deep and profound way, and they wanted more!
To be honest, my experience in Denver has not always felt very fulfilling. There have been many times when I have asked myself if it is worth it. Then I will have an experience that satisfies a deep hunger inside myself—a hunger that I might not have even been aware of. You might ask me what it is about the experience that makes me feel so profoundly fulfilled, but I wouldn’t be able to point to anything tangible, or even anything particularly happy. There was just something about the experience that left me feeling like I had just intersected with Christ, and I want more!
I had one of those experiences a few months ago when one of our teenagers reluctantly allowed me to read the poem she had written in school. I tried to find time to read the poem between Kids Club and cleaning up. I figured, I better read it to affirm her desire to write poetry. I picked up the poem she handed me. I started to read it with a smile. My smile began to fade as I was swept away by vivid images of pain so beautifully and powerfully written that I almost felt it myself. I left Joshua Station that day knowing that I had just encountered Christ through a 15 year old poet. Struggling to fight back tears I told Kimberly about how profound her poem was. I tried to communicate to her how it satisfied a hunger within my soul for true, raw, sometimes painful beauty. Then I encouraged her to keep writing, because I wanted more.
I hope that her poem helps you to encounter Christ in a new way as it did me.
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