For awhile now, I’ve wanted to write something about the Misunderstood Jesus. I can’t remember where I was, or who I was with, the day I identified Jesus as the Most Misunderstood Person who has ever, or will, exist. It might have been L’Abri. I need to look at my old purple spiral notebook I used that year to write down my thoughts and feelings and first poems and prayers I’d written for awhile. It may have been after the scales fell from my eyes and I was able to see the landscape of the Swiss Alps for the first time, after stress and cynicism had clouded them for so long. I described the Alps to my journal as “like a fake Hollywood backdrop.” I could not absorb their beauty for months after my arrival to the creaky, wooden chalet on the side of the mountain, whose paths zigzagged in front of it like someone trying to escape an alligator. “Run and zigzags and it can’t catch you,” all Floridians are told in Surviving Shark Attacks, Lightning Strikes, and Alligator Chases 101. Back then, I imagined having the presence of mind to run in zigzags in the moment, instead of freaking out and relying on middle school track skills to outrun the beast. “You cannot outrun it. It is faster than you.” I hoped that the alligator chase wouldn’t happen until adulthood, because all children know that in adulthood you have a calm, panic-free presence of mind in all things. After all, after twenty-five you have your life all figured out and nothing really bothers or scares you anymore.
It might have been when my friend Jenny, a beautiful blonde from Seattle, Ultimate Frisbee champion, and mountain climber whose outdoorsy parents took her on her first climb as soon as she could walk, and I were talking about the Bible and all of the opportunities for its concepts to be misunderstood. “It’s interesting,” Jenny said in her thoughtful way, stunning blue eyes looking up at the wooden beams of the ceiling, blonde head tilted in that way Jenny has when she’s thinking. “I was talking with Richard about this.” She cracked her knuckles and stared into my eyes intently. “How do we know the Bible is truth? It is a translation of a translation.” It’s crazy. A whole movement of people basing their faith and entire lives on a possible misunderstanding.
Well that planted a seed that would germinate into a large tree, like a Banyan, with its rhizomatic roots, where they grow up, down, and every which way around. I’m not sure how that tree germinated, and I don’t want to create a memory that’s not there, but somehow Jenny’s words had life in them, life that wanted to grow roots that would attach to my mind and heart and thoughts, words that would bear fruit in the next two years as I thought about the insanity of a God who would be so desperate to communicate (and allow his people to become part of the story) that He would allow for translations within translations, and the chance for complete misunderstandings to happen. He would allow the truth to get bloody and beaten into gross misrecognition, he would allow others to climb into the skin and make false claims and promises, dragging others down with them as the drank the Kool Aid together. He would allow the Serpent to lie to the Woman and the Man, and therefore all Women and Men, for all of History. All of this Misunderstanding. All for the Love of us.
Misunderstood Jesus. Who is He?
To be continued…