The Jesus of the Gutter

Last week, when reading Janet Hanson’s blog post one sentence jumped out at me: “Jesus looks different from the gutter than he does from a throne of self-sufficiency.”  Little did I know that two days later I would get to experience the powerful impact of this in real life.

A little background:

This past weekend I started my LAST year of nursing school (YAY!!!).  My first clinical rotation experience will be in the mental health rotation at a local psychiatric hospital.  I will be there for the first 5 weekends of my clinical experience.  I am excited about the learning potential but Sunday, the first day of my student nursing on the adult unit of the hospital, I was a bundle of nerves!  The day was to be a day of observation of the milieu (mental health speak for environment) and also practice how to communicate therapeutically with our patients.  Each unit is always in lockdown (meaning that only those with keys can leave the unit) and the units are divided into pods with approximately 6 or 7 rooms with two beds each.  The unit is open but the patients need to stay in their respective pods at all times.  Everything has locks on it so we were given a master key that we were (and I quote) “to guard with our lives”.  There isn’t much in the way of privacy for the patients: every 15 minutes, a staff member walks around and does a visual check for each patient and makes sure they are all accounted for.  Any rooms that the patients have access to have no way of being locked from the inside of the room and as much as possible any means of killing oneself is removed.  Although as our instructor said, if a patient is determined enough, they will be creative in their attempts.  Her advice for us was to learn to think in terms of the perspective that a mentally ill person would approach life.

Opening my eyes to the Jesus of the gutter:

Sunday morning, my patient was sitting in the activity room waiting for chapel to begin.  With his permission, I joined the chapel service.  Gotta say it was one of the most beautiful chapel services I had ever participated in.  As I sat there where brokenness permeated the air and sadness seeped into the very marrow of our bones, it hit me that this is what the real Jesus looks like.  The real Jesus looks like each of these broken souls (including myself) sitting around that table.  The real Jesus doesn’t fit into our “perfect” little molds of self-sufficiency.  

The real Jesus fits in best in the most messy, the most raw, the most vulnerable situations.  It doesn’t get any more authentic than what we see when we look to Jesus from out of the gutter of rejection and homelessness, of major depression, of psychotic whispers, of suicidal ideation, of the grips of self-harm, of bipolar disorder, of OCD, of insistent delusional thoughts, of anorexia and bulimia, of substance abuse and other addictions, and of sexual, verbal, and physical abuse.

If despite our illnesses, our brokenness, we can worship Jesus out of even the smallest desire to worship from out of the depths – there is where we find Jesus.  We find him in our desperate cries, our whimpered prayers, our weakest attempts to lift our eyes to his.  We find him there where we blend our voices amidst our pain and sing “Draw Me Close to You” and “Lord I Lift Your Name on High” and “Open the Eyes of My Heart”. 

What spoke to me the most is that there was no need to hide our brokenness while sitting around that table there in the mental health unit.  So often we all paste our plastic smiles on our faces and sit in the padded pews in the perfect atmosphere of a church that has its act together.  And for 1 or 2 hours we pretend, along with everyone else, that we have our lives in control, that we don’t have doubts and fears, that we aren’t sobbing in the lonely dark night, that we aren’t stretched too thin in our finances, that we aren’t bound by shame, that we aren’t struggling in our faith, that we aren’t fighting to save relationships.  

Friends, we are missing the point of community if we can’t show our brokenness to each other.  We are missing Jesus in each other if we hide our vulnerabilities, if we cover over our gutters and perch on self-made thrones.

Discover the way the real Jesus looks by looking for the gutters in your life and in the lives of others.

“If You Want to Love Someone” by Jason Gray


Linking up with Jennifer Dukes Lee


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