Several years ago, during a White Elephant gift exchange, my husband and I endowed a Messengers of Faith Action Figure talking Jesus doll. It was a last-minute acquisition after a sought-out Target giftcard was stolen from us in the final round. I suggested to my husband, Michael, that we save him only to package him up for the following year’s exchange. He paused and said, “Hmm, let’s keep him. I have plans for Jesus.”
This battery-operated item is now stored in a Rubbermaid bin among mismatched colored plastic Easter eggs and various woven baskets. He makes an appearance as part of our Holy Week traditions. Admittedly, as holy week approached this year in the midst of COVID-19, my heart felt similar to the feelings of opening a package with a plastic Jesus inside, disoriented, anxious, cynical, and missing Target.
On Maundy Thursday, our three-year-old Charlotte, was having a difficult night, weepy and exhausted, embodying the fatigue that we have all been feeling during this pandemic. That night, she asked if she could sleep with Jesus who she had recently discovered when we unveiled him from the holiday box. We gladly agreed. She hugged him with a huge smile on her face and brought him out the following morning and sat him near Woody and Buzz, her Toy Story friends.
On Good Friday, Michael turned off all the lights and closed the blinds to the Florida sun, now setting, helping us to imagine the darkness that came over the earth. The darkness was easy to imagine this year. The frailty of human life is before us and the idea that dust we have come and dust we shall return felt palpable.
Hannah, our 8-year-old, painted a wooden cross earlier in the day from Michael’s Craft curbside service and attached him to the cross using black hairbands. She placed a crown of thorns on his head constructed with small twigs from our yard. We prepared him for the crucifixion as we read the Biblical account. After the words “It is finished,” she wrapped him in a white pillowcase with a few drops of essential oils and prepared him for burial placing him in a tomb. The tomb is the tunnel between our sectional and wall encased with a large pillow.
At that moment, Charlotte’s little body realized what was happening.
“Mommy, I didn’t get to say goodbye to Jesus” she said as shock set in.
She began to wail, “Mommy, I’m sad about Jesus.”
In this moment, my heart wanted to frantically remind her that he would come back to life on Sunday.
“Let her have her emotions sweetheart,” Michael said gently.
I held Charlotte on my chest while she vacillated between sobbing, and whimpering, grieving that Jesus, the one who loves her and whose plastic body brought her comfort the night before was killed and now buried. As her sweaty three-year old body covered mine, my formerly distant and shrouded heart began to soften.
I began to coregulate with Charlotte allowing me to access emotions residing in my body that I had been unable to feel. This pandemic has triggered a feeling of being untethered, taking me back to early attachment wounds. My body has carried the disillusionment of being separate from the bodies and faces of the ones whose presence bring soothing and containment, close friends, clients, and neighbors bringing a sense of synchronicity in life.
This feeling of isolation has, at times, brought disorientation and terror like I’m fending for myself with a plastic Jesus.
Charlotte’s sweaty body and tears soaked my tee-shirt reminding me that I am real and He is real. Her childlike faith brought me from a plastic Jesus to the true flesh and blood of Jesus, a holy shift.
Dr. Curt Thompson says that “Hell is the mental state of fear of abandonment that we occupy” when we fail to see and take in ” the gaze of the One who, when we are lost is always coming to find us.”
I have cried this last week as I ponder this phrase, “He is coming to find us.” As I stare at the four walls of my house, the same scenery for the last six weeks, I am thankful for Charlotte’s childlike faith that ushered me into the hope that a real man, whose sweat turned to blood and whose lungs know the pain of suffocation, experienced his own abandonment from God on my behalf and is coming to find me.
Rachel Blackston loves all things beautiful…rich conversations over a hot cup of lemon ginger tea, watching her three little girls twirl around in tutus, and Florida sunrises on her morning walks. She resides in Orlando with her lanky, marathon running husband and her precious daughters, priceless gifts after several years of infertility. Rachel and her husband Michael cofounded Redeemer Counseling. As a therapist, Rachel considers it an honor to walk with women in their stories of harm, beauty, and redemption.