(The following is an article I wrote several weeks ago, during a six-week stay at Shepherd's rehab center)
I saw Jesus today.
Oddly enough, He quite resembled a middle-aged mother sitting beside her disabled son. I found myself directly behind them at a Shepherd Center's chapel service today and witnessed her do the most amazing, yet simple thing as the speaker challenged us to "taste life again." With her arm resolutely arcing around her boy's shoulders, holding on to him as for dear life and seemingly oblivious to the homily and all else around her, she leaned into him gently and offered a well-placed kiss squarely on his left shoulder. Her son had recently joined the ranks of quadriplegia and his high-level neck injury left him with little control over nine-tenths of his body. Even his head had to be stabilized with a network of headrests attached to his wheelchair, each one supporting a separate zone so that his head would not tip from side to side.
What struck me about this tender vignette was that the mother zeroed in on the one place her son could feel and placed her kiss there. Once was not enough, however, not for this mother. A few moments later, my already misting eyes beheld her turn again to her son and look up at him. He was sitting much higher than she, but no bother. Not for this mother. She leaned in once more and found again that place on his shoulder but this time the kiss lingered a few moments longer. The son couldn't turn his head to respond but I could still see the upward flexing of a cheek muscle from behind and knew that he must have been sporting a grin a mile wide!
For this mother, sitting beside her son was not nearly enough. She needed to kiss him to let him know that she was there, that she cared and that she was not going anywhere.
I couldn't tell you everything the chaplain said this afternoon but I can sure tell you the sermon my eyes witnessed, verbatim, because I just did. As I rolled away from the auditorium in my own wheelchair, I found myself in a conversation with the Lord. In all actuality it was a monologue because my Father was doing all the talking. He was using that visual aid to let me know that He can be found most easily where there is pain, despair and heartsickness.
"I AM in this place," He spoke into my spirit as I navigated the dogleg of the long hallway known as the Bridge. The words were kind and tender, not intoned with "and don't you ever forget it!" but carried with them the lilt of a self-binding promise. And just so I couldn't mistake His intentions, the Great Physician bent even closer to announce, "I AM in every room and on every floor of this hospital."
Shepherd Center is one of the finest rehabilitation institutions in the world. It used to service only spinal cord injuries but has in recent years expanded to serve the needs of those with acquired brain injuries and MS. In some of its patient rooms there might be closed fists thrusts toward the heavens from those who curse the ways of the Lord, there are certainly those who shrug off deity altogether or deny His existence and worship at the altar of science.
But in such a place, God is at His best as He kisses the shoulders of the hurting. He cannot be spurned or pushed away. Nosiree. Not when there are wounds to bind and broken hearts to mend. Like a doting mother bending over a scraped knee or attending to a fevered brow, He knows just where to kiss it to make it feel better.
"He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds." (Psalm 147:3)
If you have been waylaid by life and left bleeding on the side of the road or even if your pain is not nearly so graphic and traumatic but you are hurting nonetheless and numb to any sensation of hope, get ready to hear the Lord say to your wounded spirit, "I AM here." And get ready to feel His kiss where it hurts.
Consider these kisses from a Friend:
"Casting all your cares (anxieties, worries) upon the Lord, for He cares for you." (1 Peter 5:7)
"We have a Great High Priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses…" (Hebrews 4:15)
"In all our grief (distress, affliction), He too is grieved (distressed, afflicted)." (Isaiah 63:9)
"I will never leave you, nor will I forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5)
"The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are learned, that I may know how to sustain with a word those who are weary." (Isaiah 50:4)
"Nothing will separate me from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus my Lord." (Romans 8:39)
Try this exercise: put your name in the appropriate places in each of the verses above and I am certain that all that ails you will be trumped by the well-placed kiss of the One who holds you in His everlasting arms. Never, never underestimate the power of a kiss be it from a doting mother or an Eternal Father. With Him, a kiss is never just a kiss.