A layman’s progress

Monthly reflections from Terry Hawes, lay preacher at St John’s

The Living Jesus


In this country, not many people need material things. Most people however still want something,
in fact many things. Even billionaires hanker for a bigger yacht, a faster jet aircraft, a landing berth
closer to the beach; something better than the competing billionaire landing at the neighbour airport.
There’s a notion that Christians are holier than thou types, not subject to human frailty & who live
in austerity, or are hypocrites who support the empire of a bloated Church while the world starves.
Most of us are neither of those things, we just get along like everyone else, craving retail therapy &
wanting things without actually needing very much. But with a crucial additive.


St Augustine said that his soul was restless until it rested in Christ. I was blessed beyond
imagination when Christ rested in me; wanting & needing were eradicated from my existence for a
few short moments, & I want to tell you about it. Why do I want to tell you such a personal story?


If you’re Christian & wonder why such a thing hasn’t happened to you, or think that because I wear
a robe on Sundays I have some privileged access to God, then this is a failure. God is as God is, &
He moved on me because I needed Him. If I don’t have the words to adequately describe the
enormity of what happened, neither do I have the vocabulary to convey how low I had sunk prior to
its occurrence. If you ever need God so, then He will be there. So let God be God & don’t ask why
(if it hasn’t happened yet, & I’m sure that for some others it already has) God hasn’t met you as
directly as He did me. If there is one reader who is affirmed by this story, or one atheist or agnostic
who finds him or herself stopping by & wondering what happened here, then I will have succeeded.


I was engaged in a meditation exercise with some other students, when quite suddenly I saw Jesus
on the cross. His mouth was a perfect “O” of pain – this is where my impression of a butterfly on a
wheel is rooted. Imagine such a delicate & beautiful creature pinned up for the amusement of
humanity, unable to spread its wings for the lancing shocks of agony as the pins impale the tiniest
movement. So trapped was Jesus. As He turned His face away in that perfect O of suffering, I
distinctly see how He tried to hold still to avoid the nails, but of course the cramping impossibility
of staying immobile crept on like the tide, & as His chest sank lower into His abdomen, His
diaphragm compressed the thoracic cavity rendering Him unable to breathe, so He had to stand on
the peg provided to prevent Him from suffocating & so prolong the ordeal. And as He was forced
to take the weight off His feet to allow His lungs to fill, the movement sent unimaginable bolts of
lightning though the whole nervous system. The O froze in situ; I saw Him breathe His last & so in
searing agony, naked & burnt by a broiling sun, I saw Him die. Then I seemed to rise above & to
his right, then found myself on a shoreline.


In that moment I saw a man standing by a lake in the twilight. He wore a pale blue robe over a
silver robe; very similar in colour & material, & he was looking out over the water. I recall he had a
strange quality of stillness about him. He was to my left so I was looking at the right side profile of
his face, which showed a prominent middle eastern nose bridge, while his hair was jet black,
shoulder length & very tightly curled. He wore a full set beard & moustache, which were also jet
black with very tight curls. I knew immediately who it was, that I was looking at Jesus of Nazareth,
& as I was quite close, I was troubled about why He was looking away, as He must have known I
was there. Why won’t He look at me?


This only lasted a few short moments, then I quite suddenly found myself on a hill looking over a
small cliff edge, & I was wearing a white robe, something like a cassock. The sky was once again
in twilight, & there was a crowd of people milling around on a road below me, talking solemnly
with each other as if something really serious had happened. Further away, leading back up the
road towards higher ground there was a crowd making its’ way down, all in semi darkness, except
there was someone amongst them, someone in full colour, wearing the blue & silver robes, with the
black curly hair & beard, & this time looking straight into my eyes with an unwavering gaze. The
man was luminous, glowing discreetly in the half light. He had an other wordly quality about Him,
not a dream state, but presented as if He was in the world but not of it, & it seemed to me that He
was there uniquely with me, but also being amongst others. I could only see Him from the chest
upwards because of the crowd, & they looked like they might pass below me & move on, which
bothered me a great deal because I knew with full certainty – “it’s Jesus.”


I have dived all over the world; in The Philippines, The Indian Ocean, The Mediterranean & The
Caribbean. Also I have got up in the dark 11,000 feet up in The Alps & watched the sky change
colour as the sun came up – but I have never ever seen the colour I saw in His eyes, the most
vibrant living shade of blue I have ever seen, a shade which the words divine or heavenly cannot
capture, because no-one has ever seen heaven, but I’m telling you that blue does not belong to this
world.


I felt numbed into shocked disbelief, but I couldn’t bear the thought that He might pass by, so with
what was a big effort I shook off my torpor & almost swam through a sense of reserve, calling out:


“Lord Jesus Christ, son of The Living God, have mercy on me, for I am a sinner.”


He stepped out of the crowd & turned towards me; the crowd melted away, I don’t know how or
where, I could only look at him. He very quickly became very large, His face filled my whole
perception. I out of my body, & seemed to be looking from behind myself – & the height of my
body was less than the pupil of His eye. He swelled out beyond the curvature of the earth, beyond
the horizon, still holding my eyes with that unerring gaze. There was no sense of danger or fear,
just of enormous scale & power. Then just as quickly & suddenly He returned to normal size,
standing in the field below me; there were just the two of us. He was looking at me with those
incredibly blue eyes, they seemed to be holding me in an indescribable way, & I knew that He knew
everything.


I said “I’m sorry Lord, that I spoiled it” meaning I am sorry for all the spoiling things I’ve done in
my life.


He mouthed the words, which seemed to arrive in my head a half second later. I didn’t hear them
through my ears, I felt them resonate in my mind, a very deep & powerful sound. The words were:


I love you


At this moment it hit me so hard – this is real, it’s not a dream! It’s interactive, I’m part of it, I have
choices, it’s not just happening to me as a passive spectator – I am talking with Jesus Christ & He is
answering! And there are no words that can wrap around what that felt like. I raised my hands in
some sort of supplication, & gasped the question I so needed to know but was so afraid to ask –

“Am I forgiven?”

And His lips moved again, & I felt the deep powerful voice right inside my head a half second later.
He said:


Yes


I made some inarticulate sound, turned & scurried down the hill as fast as I could go; I had to turn
away & lose sight of Him because I had to get away from the cliff & go around it to my right.
When I rounded the cliff I saw that He was still down there in the field waiting for me – the comfort
of Him caring enough to wait was a warm surge inside me. I ran, knelt at his feet, wrapped my
arms around His waist & was overcome with a sense of stillness & calm, removed from every
anxiety & recrimination I have ever known; within or without – I never wanted to go anywhere ever
again. I wanted to be there for ever. I felt an overwhelming sense of relief – not joy; relief. If I had
been able to choose my personal infinity with Him in that moment I would have taken it without
hesitation, I would have knelt there for eternity if I could have. All striving, all desire, all
frustration was at an end, eliminated from my awareness as if they had never been. The rush & the
fever were over; I was complete.


But I felt aware that my time here was limited, & was afraid that I would be called back into the
group, of whom I was dimly conscious on some level. I was conflicted at that time of my life, there
were two distinct choices open & I had to make one. So I asked Him, “Where do you want me to
go – what do you want me to do?” The answer came, I said it within myself, but it did not come
from me, because it was too certain – it doesn’t matter where I go, it doesn’t matter what I do,
because I’ll be with you.


There was a moment while this sunk in, then I became aware that all I had done with Him so far
was all about me, & that this could not be – I was with Jesus & I had to involve others….at that
point I became aware that He smiled. I couldn’t see Him, my face was in His chest, but I felt it.


I asked Him if He would take care of certain matters, not for sharing here. Then I had the same
sense of realisation that – I don’t have to ask, because I know that you will – Then I felt Him
smiling again.


Everything seemed to slow right down by this point, as if time suspended. Until then the time was
passing just as it does for us in normal life, but now it became somehow immaterial, as though I
were in a kind of suspended animation. I became aware that I had to go back; that it was not my
time to leave with Him. I was conscious of becoming separated from Him, of being returned to the
cliff on the hillside. I didn’t feel sad at the loss, I knew it was OK, & words formed again in my
mind – I know, that I’ll never be without you – although I knew He was leaving, which doesn’t
make sense, but it did. He raised His hand as He retreated into the crowd, who had now gathered
again. He receded, still facing me, still holding me with those blue eyes – He never blinked or took
them away from me from when He first appeared, except when I feared He was passing below me
& is when I had to shout out; also again when I buried my head into Him. Now for the first time,
there was a halo of gold around His head, which appeared as He reversed back in the direction He
had come, turning side profile to me among the people, so I lost eye contact then. He was looking
up to the night sky – it was His left profile which I saw. He & His followers then accelerated away
into the sky at an angle of perhaps 40 degrees, at great speed. The tableau grew smaller at huge
speed, until they disappeared beyond the sky in a flash like a meteor, which lasted for maybe 2
seconds before it faded.

I was back in the group, where it was very quiet. I have no idea how much earth time had elapsed.
The whole experience took place in real time for me, & the images were real life, real colours &
greatly detailed, although other worldly. Like you, there have been rare moments in my life when I
have had dreams so vivid that they appear to be full colour & very real, however those dreams
lasted seconds before merging into the usual dream state. This experience was totally different – it
occurred in linear & experiential time, one scene followed another in smooth & continuous
succession; there was interaction in terms of sight, touch, hearing, speech, desire, response &
emotion, & I recall every moment in acute detail almost twelve years later. This was not a dream.


I realised maybe a year or two later, that the second part of the experience was much more revealing
than I first thought. I had been so overwhelmed by His words about love & forgiveness that I had
undervalued the following actions. In those moments He told me that it doesn’t matter where I go
or what I do, so long as it is in Him. This has freed me to follow my heart with Jesus, not to try to
please Him, nor to do what I think I ought to do. It is being in Him which is the important thing; so
long as I am there, He is in all that I do. I also realised that He set me free from sin, by telling me
that He is taking care of everyone I pray for, & everyone I ever failed, whether I ask or not. I do not
understand why He is pleased with prayer – because I know that He is – nor why He answers some
but not others, but I do know that all are safe with Him. This means that He is, was & always will
be amongst all that I have done wrong & failed to do right, that He does not ask for my personal
atonement for past sins – because He has given, is giving & will give that for me.


He gave me everything that I needed, & more than I understood. And have I been elevated into
some holy state – do I float above the ground now? No I don’t. I still have my demons; they lie
beneath the surface at the dark edge of conscience, rising up to drag me down when I float between
sleeping & waking. This is where I pray. My own sense of wanting material things remains, sadly.
I am just as flawed as I ever was, which is disappointing. But I do know that Jesus loves & forgives
me, as He does you, & the concept of wanting or needing fades somewhat when set into that
context.


I had an experience I can’t capture. My language skills are inadequate to convey the reality. A John
or a Luke might have grasped the actuality of what happened, they might have conveyed the
enormity of what took place in my spirit – I can’t. I can only state – & God is my witness – that it
did happen, that Jesus looked into the core of my being, met me on every level & let me know He
loves & forgives me. I saw Him, touched Him & spoke with Him as clearly as I would with you.
There is a state of being which our imaginations are not capable of conjuring up for ourselves; we
have to be taken there. Jesus Christ opened a window into God’s nature for a short period & led me
to gaze into it. He will do the same for you; I have glimpsed where we are going & it is truly
beautiful.