When I met him, this was what I was carrying with me:
1. Father abandoned family
2. The church I had been attending shut down one Sunday when the pastor decided he didn't want to be a pastor anymore; being a non-denominational church, we had no pool of candidates or options for pulpit supply and the church essentially stopped existing in that moment
3. P pursued me, told me he loved me, told me he wanted to marry me; then, he slept with S
4. I was blamed for #3; I was told, "That's just the way he is. If you got hurt, it's your fault because you didn't guard your heart."
5. Kicked out of my small group and blacklisted in church because I told the pastor's wife about what P had done and expressed my concerns that he might not be the best choice of small group leaders given the church's mission and stated values
6. Gave away my virginity and started experiencing PTSD from a rape at the age of 15, which I had repressed
7. Lost a large portion of my identity in being a) perfect and b) not a rape victim
1-7 happened within the first 2 weeks of school. 6 happened the night before my first one-on-one meeting with my CPE supervisor and he offered to walk the journey with me. He was the only person in my life who was fully present with me during that time. He was the only person in my life who loved me unconditionally.
8. Dropped out of school because of 1-7 and lost a larger portion of my identity as a student
9. I was brutally raped by a stranger on Halloween; the attack lasted hours
10. He died on November 7, 2007
9 weeks, 6 hours, 13 minutes after we first met.
People who do not know me, did not know him, and who had no experience of our relationship have often accused me of “transference” and “counter-transference” when they hear the depth of my grief and the intensity of the bond between us. People encourage me to get more therapy and understand how he was a stand-in for my father.
Their interpretation is patently false.
If there was any kind of transference and counter-transference whatsoever, the person I identified and responded to him as was Jesus. He was the incarnate Christ to me for that brief time that we had together.
Jesus was the ever-present source of comfort, affirmation and protection in my life throughout my childhood. Jesus is the one who held me when I cried. Jesus was the one who assured me that I was okay. Jesus is the one I turned to for protection when my father beat my siblings and I prayed desperately that my father would not hit me. Jesus is the one I sought when my father came after me with the intent to kill me and I had to hide in a laundry hamper, with dirty close pulled tightly on top of me, a hot, sticky, wretched mess of breath amidst the dirty pants, socks, and t-shirts of childhood.
Jesus is was the one who heard me, affirmed me, protected, stood by me, walked with me, and never asked anything of me. Jesus is the one who loved me unconditionally and asked nothing from me and wanted nothing for me. Jesus was the only one who simply loved me where I was, as I was, in the way I needed.
That is who He was to me.
He was the incarnate Christ. As one who professes an incarnational faith, it is no great leap to me that I saw Jesus in Him, that I saw Him as Jesus to me for that brief period of time.
If there anything that my relationship with Him taught me, it was that incarnation is an active, present, on-going reality. We, all of God’s children, are the body of Christ. This has allowed me to see Jesus in others, in each person I meet. It is not always easy. It does not always come naturally. No one carries the image as fully, completely, and utterly as He did.
But, having found Jesus in Him, I am able, in spite of experiences that would inform me otherwise, to intentionally seek out the image of God in others and to affirm that they are children of God, just as He was, just as I am, and I can see Jesus in them, too.
How can that possibly be unhealthy?