image vs presence

by Kristen

I find myself in a dichotomous gap between what I thought I knew and what is true.

Jesus had presence. But He fell short of the images people had of who and what the Messiah would be.

An image is a construct: a polished and shiny ideal built out of the bits of information available but mostly held together by the glue of generations reading between the lines.

When Jesus showed up, He didn’t fit the image. The clothes hanging so nicely on the manikin looked all wrong on Him. He wasn’t the presumed height and weight. His proportions weren’t perfect. The fabric didn’t lay quite right. The image needed serious altering.

But instead of seeing the flaws in the image, it was easier to find fault with the embodiment. It couldn’t be them; it must be Him. They’d spent years honing their mental construct. They couldn’t be wrong.

Yet even still they couldn’t deny His presence.

He was noticeable. He exuded authority. He demanded a response. But He never dictated the response. He was the ultimate respecter of free will. He still is.

And that’s where it gets personal. I’ve taken the easy road of shaking my head at Jesus’ contemporaries who missed the reality of the presence because they were caught up in the image of their own creation.

But am I any different?

Despite believing in Emmanuel—God with us, God enfleshed in man—I’ve still constructed an image. Instead of a physical being intruding on my mental image, I’ve looked past the very presence of the Spirit. He’s not a god I can visit and watch perform wondrous signs and then dismiss for failing to meet my expectations. He is God ever-present with me. Hemming me in behind, before, beside. And yet I overlook Him in favor of my construct.

I dare to wonder where God is as I search for the image I’ve pieced together instead of turning to the Presence that is very much with me . . . awaiting—but not dictating—my response.

He is not who I thought He was. He is who He is. Not my sketch, not my image, not my construct. He Is.


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