Lately, I’ve had this strange phrase running through my head: “Don’t get distracted by the man on the cross.” I found this phrase startling when it first showed up. Isn’t the man on the cross rather the crux of things?
A few weeks ago, I went to a summer music festival, and my friends and I ended up listening to a band we’d never heard of before. The music was very good, and there was this one kid standing way up in front. He was quite heavy and golden-tan and a little funny-looking, with curly hair sort of sticking up off of his head. He was dancing as though by some inner compulsion, bouncing and bobbing to the beat. He kept glancing around as though to check if people were looking at him, his face rather anxious, eyes wide. But he didn’t stop dancing.
I was a little uncomfortable watching him, but I couldn’t stop looking. I saw myself in the combination of abandon and self-consciousness.
Then the voice in my head said, “This is Jesus.”
This is Jesus. The awkward, fat, beautiful little boy who cannot not dance.
Charlotte’s birthday was on the Assumption, and I celebrated and ran about and did not go to Mass. I stood at the edge of our bed and announced, “Mary was assumed into heaven today. It means she was taken up in her body.”
I was telling her that because I was preoccupied with my own not-going to Mass. I am neither comfortable going nor not going all the time. Every Sunday the question sits like a tickle in the back of my throat. I think I am not the only one who worries at my own Catholicism, from time to time, like a tongue prodding a sore tooth. Still there? At times I play hide-and-seek with His crucified body as though He’s an old boyfriend—I hate to impose Him on anyone else; I’m not sure where we stand; I can’t put Him away.
And yet the words keep coming back: “Don’t get distracted by the man on the cross.” It sounds a little heretical, doesn’t it? Though I like to believe heresy and prophecy often meet at parties and make out in dark corners, there are also times when I want it all to be as simple as the vast table of cartoon-laden tracts waiting for me at the end of the underground walk through Times Square subway station. I want to say the magic words and be transformed, open my hands and watch my questions fall out, and there are moments when it could almost be worth the loss of them.
But just as I was thinking this the other day, a bright-eyed Latino boy went charging in front of his father in the tunnel, lost him, and turned around, calling, “Daddy! Daddy!” Daddy found him and they kept moving together. “It’s hot,” the boy said loudly.
“This is Jesus,” I heard inside. “Don’t get distracted by the man on the cross.”
I am called to the questions. I am called to follow someone mysterious, with firey footsteps cooling to glass on beach of my brain. I pick up the shiny things and wonder. I am called to let go of whatever stands in my way, and I am called to stand in the brightest colors and the thickest incense, and every day anew I am called to see the face of God all over the pieces of the routine. I dance—awkwardly, looking to see if you are watching, if you approve of what you see—but I dance. And damned if there isn’t a caller inside, leading me in the strangest steps.
Rebecca Fullan is slowly melting in the heat, makes a different to-do list in her head every day, teaches some kids about words, and still usually thinks there’s something more interesting to do than going to bed on time.