The first time ever I saw your face

by Andrea Elizabeth

If a good selfie is when you’re thinking of someone you love, what does it look like if you’re thinking about God? To avoid the self-conscious expression of, this is what I or others think I should look like when thinking about God, an instant click when first looking at the viewfinder is probably more accurate. My thought is, “is it really you?” But if I’m looking at an icon of Christ at home (vs. the guided, beautiful, distracting-from-self services at Church), the thought is, “oh, you again?” which bespeaks a nagging presence that takes effort to welcome. This is different than a special vision  or the second coming, which seems more an invitation to leave present circumstances. Instead it introduces painful things I don’t want to think about. Don’t think I want a picture of that.

Maybe other people just think of their love for God, or maybe they get transported to heaven more when they pray in front of home icons. I should probably let myself, but I also worry about being too charasmatic/ spiritual gifty and deluded.

I also wonder if deciding not to pray lingeringly in front of the home icon of Christ, who is looking into only your soul, is deciding that you’re too vulnerable to handle some things, or that they really aren’t things that should be handled, but negative distractions and things that will bring you down. But if they’re always lurking there, seems they need to be dealt with rather than distracted from with quick prayers for others, mundane housework, and entertainment.

I remember listening to a story about a woman who pretty much went crazy when she said too much of the Jesus Prayer too soon, because it dredged up suppressed abuse. I think somehow it feels like dealing directly with an abuser who is continuously still doing whatever it was, but down the hall instead of in the same room. Perhaps this is because the Jesus Prayer is the prayer of the blind man to receive his sight. Sometimes you don’t want to know. In the movies, dealing with an abuser is to have, if not yourself, some hero come in and overthrow them. But what would Jesus do? Say, forgive them and embrace them? Offer them the other cheek? Unfathomable. No thanks. Should Sandusky’s boys do that? I don’t think so. That Jesus can’t be trusted. It is so satisfying in movies when the abuser gets knocked out of the picture. But at the end of Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal still has Clarice’s number, and his voice is still in her head. And part of her likes it. That’s another awful part. To let yourself listen to that person is to give them access not completely against your will. And you hate that about yourself. You have to put that part of yourself down the hall too. And what do you do with that self? Forgive her? Embrace her? Easier to do.

What if you can let yourself imagine being capable of abusing someone else? Somehow you can think of all these reasons why you were practically driven to it. I wonder how angels and holy spirits are able to countenance the awful things we do or imagine. I think they can put a white veil over the situation. They know about it, but they are shielded from it. I used to think the Protestant robe of righteousness covered a person’s individuality completely up, probably because they were totally corrupt, but maybe it just covers up the unholy things that happen. These things aren’t you.

It’s not just abuse that can be seen by Christ’s eyes. It’s loss. Loss of heart’s desires. The Nave in Once Upon a Time in Neverland had his heart removed because it was too painful to have loved and lost. Snow White in just Once Upon a Time tried to as well. But if it’s better to have lost the whole world and gained Christ, why is his face so hard to look at? You’re not sure if he’s worth it? Or that you’ve done that? What if you lost things because they didn’t want you back? That’s the real fear. That you deserve to have lost everything. You’re not sure it was for the greater good even. Then relationships are about, hurry up and get your leaving overwith. I know you will, even if you don’t know it yet. Why are you here anyway?

I don’t know why Christ’s icon is in my room. I know the Protestant reason. He loves the world. Me in particular? I really don’t know what it means. I know loving something selfishly, and I know giving something up unselfishly. But I don’t know unselfish relating. It seems an art impossible to master. My standards are very high. Very talented dancers come closest to sustaining it. Some couples have an aura that blesses others, but most of the time it seems co-dependent where they’re just trying to have someone else make them feel better or get through the day. And usually it comes from selfish gratification. I don’t begrudge them that, but I’m looking for a higher level. I think oftentimes we mistake love for worship. Love seeks to make you better. Worship says you can’t get any better. Worship spoils people.