By Norris Burkes June 27 2021
Some years ago, I was making my rounds as a staff chaplain in a Catholic hospital when a nurse sent me to see a patient on her unit.
“She’s on life support,” the nurse explained. “If she dies, this will be the third death today.”
When I walked into the patient’s room, I met the woman’s husband, a Baptist pastor, praying he wouldn’t lose this battle.
I barely found the breath to announce myself when he stood and pointed to the crucifix hanging above his wife’s bed, the same one placed in every patient room.
“Can you remove that?” he asked.
Regular readers of my column know that chaplains honor all faiths and are called to create a sacred space for our patients. So I said, “Sure.”
I plucked the crucifix from its hook, opened the bedside drawer, and reverently laid it on the top of the Bible.
The pastor quietly replaced it with a sentimental picture of sunflowers he’d brought from the home he shared with his wife.
In the next fifteen minutes, he became noticeably relaxed as we chatted about his marriage of 57 years and his Baptist career of half a century.
Soon, the nurse returned to the room to hang new IV bags. The chore brought her attention eye level to the photo that supplanted the crucifix.
“Where’s my Jesus?” she asked.
“Pardon, ‘My Jesus’?” the patient’s husband said.
“Where’s the crucifix?” she asked.
“The patient requested that I replace it with their artwork,” I explained.
That launched a frantic search-and-recovery effort. The nurse started opening dresser drawers, emphasizing her possessive pronouns. “Where’s MY Jesus? Where’s MY Jesus?”
Fortunately, she regained her composure when she located the crucifix where I’d put it.
It seemed like an odd moment, but in hindsight, her question of “Where’s my Jesus?” makes sense to me now.
My guess is that a lot of you during this pandemic have felt much like this nurse, and you have occasionally lost your Jesus.
Perhaps you don’t say Jesus. You may be of another faith tradition and use words such as love, or family or Spirit. These expressions likely point to the peace you’ve found in the past.
When I feel like I’ve lost my Jesus, I’m reminded of a suggestion my mother gave me when I lost something tangible – “Go back to where you last remember seeing it, and maybe you’ll find it.”
So, where did you last see “your Jesus”?
I encourage you to go back to the place you last knew spiritual peace. It’ll be a physical or spiritual place where peace and serenity join hands and surround you with solace. For me it can be the church altar, but it’s also been fluid places, like the beach, lake or waterfall.
I call these places my “God spots.” It’s here I find that “my Jesus” has not gone missing. It is I who wandered away.
He’s everywhere. He’s in the eyes of the people returning to work, the hands of nurses who’ve healed this nation and in the heart of those housing the homeless. I saw him that day in the eyes of the husband who wiped the brow of his dying wife.
Jesus, or whatever you call the strength that sustains you, has been with you all this time. He’s not lost, not stowed away in a drawer. He is with you.
But whatever word you use, I think we can borrow a page from my Baptist theological heritage, which tells me that once you find your Jesus, he will never lose you.