God, With Us

I tried to track down the names of the artist and photographer of the above featured image to give them proper credit, but couldn’t find the info. It is a beautiful work, so credits to whoever they are!

Blue Like Jazz is one of my favorite books. I’m reading it for the third time, and Don Miller’s work will never cease to mesmerize me.

I’m in love with the way he paints his world, and I’ll probably spend the rest of my life trying to be as good of a writer as Don Miller (on the days when reading his books don’t make me want to give up writing entirely and leave it to the experts).

I especially resonate with the first chapter in the book, and the imagery of God on a Dirt Road Walking Towards Me.[1] The chapter is about doubting God, and being unclear about who He is, like He’s walking towards you but is so far away you can’t quite figure out what He looks like. Over time you start to see Him more clearly, start to understand Him more, until you can see the lines on His face and hear His voice.

When I talk to people about spiritual things, I often hear that people feel distant from God, and they wonder what He is really like.

Is He really a loving father? Does He really care about us the way He says He does? Is He actually in control, intervening in our day to day?

We don’t all see God the same, especially when we are trying to get to know Him. Scripture describes Him, so there are things about Him that are certain and that we can know, but He’s so large. and we all think we understand Him, when really we don’t know the half of Him.

A friend of mine likes to say, “We will all die with wrong ideas about God.” That’s so true. None of us has it completely right. We try our best to understand Him as He is, but not a single one of us can say we know Him completely, fully, as He is in His entirety.

We all have these images of what we think God looks like. Maybe we’ve never shared them with anyone, maybe they live in our private imaginings, never meant to see the light of day, but enjoyed anyways in quiet reverie.

A high school student once told me she imagines God as a cool black man with ripped muscles who laughs a lot. I like that.

Jesus was the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15), so when God came into the world as a little baby, humanity got a taste of what He is really like, through Jesus and later through the Holy Spirit. Of course, nobody knows what Jesus looks like either, unless you’ve seen him personally, in which case I am very jealous.

I imagine what Jesus looks like all the time. I know He has the kindest eyes that crinkle around the edges when He smiles. I know His eyes fill with tears when I worship Him. I’m pretty sure He sits cross-legged when He listens to me talk with Him, and sometimes we will talk for hours and He just sits there, listening to me and speaking to me and looking at me with those big, beautiful, soft eyes.

No one could prove that Jesus sits cross-legged when He talks to me, but that’s what I imagine He does. And that imagery of Jesus – His kind eyes, His love for my worship, the way He sits with me – that is a large part of why I do anything. Once you start seeing those kind eyes it is really hard to stop.

When I sit next to someone homeless on the street, I imagine Jesus, cross-legged, His kind eyes filled with tears or laughter, and always filled with love.

I spend a lot of time with Jesus, but not nearly enough. The more time I spend with Him, the kinder and more compassionate I become. I mess up a lot. Jesus is still always there, waiting for me – offering His kindness and correction.

I think about Pete, Kyle, Melissa, and Heidi – people who spend so much time with Jesus that they just radiate what He is like. You can tell if someone’s spent the long hours with Him. They come out acting like Him and smelling like Him, carrying His fragrance to a dying world.

I love this underrated John Mark McMillan song from 2012 called Kiss Your Feet. It’s about anointing Jesus, like Mary Magdalene, except in this song, the anointing happens on a city street.

I dreamed I kissed Your feet
Between the cigarette butts on the side of fourteenth street
I got down on my hands and my knees with an alabaster jar
I dreamed I’d bleed with Your praises
Just to make the world smell like Your grace again
I got down on my hands and my face again.

I love that imagery of kissing the feet of Jesus, but to do so your nose is right in the cigarette butts and grime of the streets.

It might throw a wrench in your idea of the Christmas season, but Jesus came, not to be celebrated with bows and striped candy, but to be with us.

To be with us wherever we are, grime and all. He came to show us what God is like, and He came in the most humble way possible: as a poor child, a baby born in a stable.

Sure, Jesus hangs out in our churches, but I have a feeling He is more at home on the streets.

He is at home in those places where we drop all of our false pretenses, admit our brokenness, and welcome Him in to the everyday grime of life. And He came to bring light into the darkness.

This is a sculpture called Homeless Jesus by Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz. You can’t see his hands or his face, since He is hidden by a blanket. But you can see the wounds in his feet, where the nails pierced through.

God, with us, in the form of Jesus, who identified himself as homeless (Matt. 8:20). God, with us, in the form of the poor, since Jesus told us “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matt. 25:40). God, with us, in the form of a baby who would grow to save the world, by the wounds on His hands and feet.

God, with us, becoming clearer as we know Him and love Him, and one day we will see what He looks like (when we have new, resurrected bodies so we are holy enough to handle it).

I’m thankful that He came to be with us, and I can’t wait to see Him face to face, and to talk with Him while sitting cross-legged up in heaven.

[1] Miller, Donald. Blue like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality. Nashville: T. Nelson, 2012.

[2] John Mark McMillan, 2012, “Kiss Your Feet”, The Song Inside the Sound of Breaking Down: Deluxe Reissue.


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