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

Cry of the Loon

The loon cries out and I am transported to another time, another day when life seemed so much more alive.  I am no longer camping by the lake in Alberta with friends but am rather vacationing with my parents in Vermont back when life held so many bright promises, back when I was young enough to think that I was invincible, that I was capable of having life by the tail, back when life hadn’t betrayed me, hadn’t ripped my heart to shreds and spit it back out again.  I smile sadly as the memories hit me of the days spent with Dad on the lake in Vermont – fishing and talking and soaking in the quietness of solitude in God’s creation, sometimes placing bets on where the loon would pop up again to tease us with his game of hide-and-seek.  I think too, of the quiet nights sitting on the Big Rock watching darkness fall and listening to the loon sing its lullaby, of mornings with the mist rising off the lake and the loon laughing in the face of a new day.  I think of how totally in love with the loon my dad was and how we laughed till our sides ached when he tried his best to copy the loon and call back to it.

The loon cries out again and my heart aches with the lonely, haunting echo in that call.  I too know the loneliness echoing out of the depths of that loon’s cry.  I too am haunted by the memories of sadder days, haunted by the ghosts of the past, haunted by the empty promises of memories that could have been, should have been.  I still ache at the loneliness, the emptiness still echoing in my childhood home – Dad with his life-loving, overwhelming presence is gone. The storyteller’s voice is now silent, the happy whistling no longer heralds his presence, the wisdom of life experienced no longer ready with an answer to my questions, my insecurities; his voice of unwavering faith in me no longer calling me out, stretching me, challenging me to give it more than my all.  I see too the loneliness in my mom’s face and I cry for her as night falls.  The loon’s cry becomes my own haunting, gut-wrenching sobs in a life that isn’t always daylight but that sometimes descends into a valley of darkness.

The loon cries out again and echoes the majesty of its Creator and my mind is drawn to the glory of all things heavenly.  My soul longs to meet its Redeemer in person, and my heart yearns to once again be in the presence of my dad.

The peaceful lake that is home to the loon mirrors the moon and I can almost feel God’s breath whispering in my ear.  His peace is not shattered by the haunting cries of life’s griefs, His presence is not smothered by the blackness of night that my soul is in.  He is here.  I may not be able to see Him but I can hear Him all the same.  Just as it is with the loon, I cannot see the loon and yet I hear it calling out to its partner, to its family.  And so God reminds me that He hasn’t ever left – He knows the ache in my heart, He grieves with me when I grieve the loss of memories still to be made with my Dad, He hears my cries splitting the night, He stays with me even in the loneliness.

Photo credit:  Google Images

Link up with Jennifer Dukes Lee



Hands – In Honor of my Dad

In loving memory of my dear Dad, gone for 2 and 1/2 long years now……


Hands that held so many responsibilities, so many stories, so many memories.

Hands that were rough-hewn and callous and bloodied so that your family would be well cared for.

Hands that lifted many a weary troubled heart to their heavenly Father.

Hands that could be both strong and tender.

Hands that cradled that well-worn Bible lovingly every morning.

Hands that patted the heads of many little ones.

Hands that gripped a basketball or a baseball bat to play with your baby girl even though you were weary from a long day’s work.

Hands that covered mine when you were teaching me how to drive tractor when I could still barely reach the clutch.

Hands on my shoulder to say you got my back, and you’re there behind me all the way.

Hands that would playfully “chuck” our chins when we were little.

Hands that constantly moved when you were talking, shaping your story in the air.

Hands that were firm when we needed punishment.

Hands that guided mine when you were teaching me how to cast a fishing line.

Hands that were lined with care, creased with love, and gnarled with hard work.

Hands that showed me the way to the Father.

Dad, I miss seeing your strong, big-veined hands.  As a nursing student, I picture your big “lovely” veins criss-crossing your hands – they would have been perfect to practice inserting IV’s.  (Sorry dad!)  I miss those hands emphatically waving in the air as you made a point or showed us the story you were telling.  I miss seeing those hands holding your Bible every morning.  I miss the guiding presence of those hands.  Most of all I miss seeing those hands on the small of Mom’s back when you were walking together.  I really miss you in every moment of every ordinary day and especially on the special days of my life.  But Dad, I just want to thank you for being such an awesome Dad and for always showing us love with your hands even when you were punishing us for bad behavior.  Thank you for never harming us kids with your hands.  Thank you for never raising them in anger against us.  For you and your example of what it means to live for Jesus, I am forever grateful.  Because of your loving, guiding hands I am a strong, confident woman today and I have hope of one day grasping your hand in eternity as a “welcome home!”



The song Daddy’s Hands by The Judds


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