One day during an informal meeting for worship at a Young Adult Friend gathering in Norway, I had a vision of Jesus on the cross. At the time, my understanding of God was of a “collective unconscious”, and “Jesus” and “Christ” were practically non-existent in my understanding of faith. As you can imagine, having a vision of Jesus in that context was quite unsettling, to say the least. I couldn’t think of anyone in my Quaker meeting with whom I would want to talk about this, so I didn’t speak of it to anyone for a very long time and just wondered privately about my mental health.
Here’s what happened:
I was worshiping with about a dozen other young Quakers in a cabin on the southern coast of Norway. Suddenly I was transported to the foot of the cross where Jesus was being crucified. I could feel the hot dry sand I was standing on, and in front of me I saw Jesus on the cross, or rather, all I could see of Jesus was his feet. They were nailed to the cross, and I could see blood running down his feet and dripping onto the sand beneath him. Then I realized that the sand only formed a thin crust around the earth, and the core of the planet was an ocean of blood. Jesus’ blood was dripping into this ocean of blood, and suddenly I knew that Jesus’ blood was the blood of all people, and that as long as anyone suffers, Jesus continues to hang on the cross and suffer. I knew that my task in life was to alleviate suffering so that Jesus could be taken down from the cross and the resurrection become a reality.
I eventually encountered evangelical Quakers, who helped give me a context for my vision so that it could become part of the core of my faith and part of my calling to be a hospital chaplain and spiritual director.
For many years the crucifixion was much more real to me than the resurrection. Looking back, I now understand that my vision was incomplete as long as the crucifixion was more important than the resurrection. It seemed unnatural to be joyful while there was so much suffering in the world and while Jesus continued to hang on the cross. Heaviness and sorrow seemed somehow not only appropriate but also virtuous, and my mood seemed to blend right in with my liberal church community.
Fortunately my faith story doesn’t end there. To be continued in my next blog post.
Query for prayerful consideration:
What does the crucifixion mean to me?