He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces. He was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. Isaiah 53: 3-4
I remember a time when I lived in a foreign country and I felt outside in a way I had never known. I was surrounded with lively people, beautiful streets, a dearly familiar sun and moon, the sounds of the accordions and lyrical voices, and yet, I was outside. I couldn’t understand all these strange words and sounds, I couldn’t read the newspaper, I couldn’t watch the television. I couldn’t visit a friend and have tea and talk about old times or a beautiful book. I had no context for my history, for my identity. It was a quiet season.
photograph by Sandra Juto
In the midst of this I learned to encounter and experience my Creator in a profound new way. He offered Himself to me as companion, as darling friend. I sensed His presence so robust in the cobblestone alleyways, under the starry sky, next to the Etruscan ruins. He listened always and made sense of my aloneness. He welcomed me in, He understood me, and I found my home in Him.
Maybe I experienced a tiny taste of what Jesus of Nazareth experienced when He was here. He was different and gentle and strong and misunderstood, rejected by the culture around Him. I am so amazed at His courage, how He boldly spoke and healed and didn’t hide away when He knew tension was growing.
Do you remember times in your life when you felt outside? Times where you said something and nobody seemed to understand, or times where everyone laughed at you? Times where you made a decision and nobody supported you. Or perhaps you had moved to a new city or a new country and you felt as if your whole world was across the sea, moving on without you?
Most of us likely agree that these feelings are so undesirable. We just want to be a part of things. I wish that every time I experienced these outsider feelings, I recognized Jesus in the midst of it. Imagine if we remember what He experienced on earth, allowing ourselves to taste the pain of His rejection in these moments. Imagine if we really remembered that He is on our side, understanding us, embracing us, and delighting in us in a way more complete than any human ever could?
Sometimes it’s so hard to remember the Invisible in these moments. As we anticipate Easter and Jesus’ death and resurrection, my prayer is that I and we as a community can take our eyes off of our own outsider feelings, our self-consciousness, and lift our eyes and ears to heaven, to our King, who suffered so we could be healed, who died so we could be free.