The bugs were crawling out of my walking cadaver. Sores and pus oozing from my abdomen, my ears and a gaping hole where my heart should be. For the 175th time I attempt to rid myself of these bugs and halfheartedly swat away a caterpillar-like bug munching its way through my left chest; giving up because it takes too much out of me. The biting doesn’t cause a sharp pain; just a dull ache, but it chews up my inside and out, leaves hollowness in its wake and leaves a putrid stench of bug juice and decaying flesh. From the corner of my eye, I see the ocean tirelessly crashing waves upon thunderous waves on the sands. Dragging myself along the sandy shore, my tortured limbs amble forward lethargically with no sense of purpose.
This is my sacred prayer space with Jesus – and I am a zombie. I am infested with about a dozen bugs, and the sores they have created are infected, swelling and starting to smell. As I kneel down after receiving communion, I am a walking dead in my sacred space (the beach). What did Jesus want me to encounter with such a gruesome thought and soul experience?
Wearied, my entire weight heaves and collapses onto the sand. The bugs, unfazed, continue to chomp and feast on my cadaver. My glassy eyes look towards the skies, and glimpse a shadow behind my body; a passing seagull perhaps. I am resigned to having these bugs trim me down to the bones (or maybe to nothingness, if they are bone-eaters too). I will live out the remaining of my days, on the beautiful shore, awaiting death.
“Will you open up your sores to me??” breathed a voice behind. I jerked my head back. There, I saw Jesus, my Jesus. “Will you open up your sores to me??” He places one hand on my forehead, and the other fanning out towards my abdomen.
For many months now, I have been labouring under the weight of multiple neuroses, especially in my marriage. A fancy way for saying that I’ve been getting triggered a lot and have not been a very good husband. One of the biggest neurosis is my crippling sense of inadequacy – I either overcompensate and become insufferable and fly into a rage, or I withdraw into a tight shell, isolate and punish myself and everyone around me with deafening silence.
I have also been a dick in the way I use my tongue. I have been blessed with the ability to persuade, to communicate and to analyze. But instead of harnessing these gifts, I have inverted the thrusters of my communication rocket and roasted my wife and my relationship. In a simple chat about grocery, somehow my ego turns it into a game where I must win and she must lose. Or perhaps, I throw in an acerbic passive-aggressive tone, or persecute her when she falls into my mental trap and her logic doesn’t add up.
Of course it would be embarrassing if other people, especially our families or church friends, know about it. I am deeply afraid that others will see through her puffy eyes how much abuse I have ‘lavished’ on her. I am worried that I drive my wife insane, or an impenetrable wedge in our marriage through my emotional manipulation ‘massages’. I even find it hard to be honest with God. I am an honest Christian who loves and serves God, and am of good standing in the church and the diocese. Surely these incidents are just small blips. Too insignificant to even care about, to pray about or to think about.
“Will you open up your sores, your infection and the bugs to me??” Although the answer is clear, I pause for a few moments and purse my lips. I dread the shame of having to expose myself, I loathe the pain that will inevitably come and I am just thinking of myself. Then my mind flashed to my wife who has staked her life, her body and soul on me in marriage. Only then do I relent, and my head droops ever so slightly, as to signal acceptance.
Jesus begins his divine surgery on me. Resting my head on a stone, he kneels beside my rotting body. As if sensing their impending doom, some of the smaller bugs exit the holes on my body and scurry about my frame. With great certitude and firmness, he picks up each one and smashes them onto his body. “Comparison and Envy!” – he picks up a fat one and smashes it to death. He finds another one, “Gossip!” near my cheeks and crushes it between his palms. “Resentment!”, “Passivity and Sloth!”, “Worry!”, he persists with his mission of search-and-destroy.
Then, I feel a sharp pain and release a guttural cry. Jesus pushes past my folds of muscle, and digs around my visceral organs to find the stubborn ones. Near my liver, he finds a hyperactive and peach-sized Wrath bug. It threatens to dig deeper and run around. But Jesus is an expert physician, he punctures the bug to let out the air and finally brings the powerless critter to an end on his chest.
He does the same with self-persecution, self-criticism, self-doubt and self-hatred. With his fingers, he empties the bugs of their power and vitality. Then he ends their reign of terror and smashes them to smithereens. I feel weak and hollowed out, but I no longer feel the dull ache of a dozen critters feeding on my life. He carries me into the nook of his arms, lowers me into the ocean and washes my body with the briny seawater. It stings, but it heals. And I feel myself being restored to fullness and wholeness. I am a zombie no more, I am alive.
The ordeal is over…? I think back through all the things that have kept me from being fully loving and fully alive. I saw many bugs being crushed by him, but didn’t see him kill the ‘Acerbic Tongue’. “Jesus, why didn’t you heal my toxic tongue??” Jesus smiles and places me down by the shoreline, and he sticks out his tongue at me. What a clown! I return the ribbing by sticking out my tongue too. This is when I realise the ulcers on my tongue that were spewing pus and acid, and the lacerations have all gone. Gone is the resentment, away is the need to win. Now my tongue is coated with a sweet wax of humility and patience.
I get it! By killing all the bugs within me, my tongue, which reflects the health of my body, is rid of the toxins. I shall no longer speak out in anger, or in hateful self-preservation. I shall no longer need to speak over another to gain an artificial sense of superiority. I shall no longer torment my wife with mind games and tyranny. Instead, Jesus has washed me holy and my words are now healthful and life-giving. I am loved, and must continue to open myself up to Love.