The other I was driving along; and by "driving along" I mean I was sitting in traffic. The "expressway" was stop and go due to construction. This is pretty standard for Michigan about nine months out of the year. We have two seasons here, "winter" and "construction," as the saying goes.
So, here I was stuck in traffic. I wasn't frustrated, which is odd. Usually, when I'm in this situation, there is almost a sense of panic that sets in and I want to figure out how to get through the back up as quickly as possible. But, on this particular day I was just pleasantly sitting there. I had listened to a podcast that talked about how when we say, "I was stuck in traffic," we often fail to realize that we are part of the "traffic."
Have you ever thought about that? I hadn't, until this particular day. I just sat there and kind of laughed about it. Here we all are together as "traffic." Once I found myself as the "traffic" it freed me up from the frustration of fighting the "traffic." You know why? Because I've learned over the years that fighting myself is a bit of a silly thing to do.
I sat there, crawling along and recognizing myself in the "traffic." As I did, it got me thinking about how all these folks, like me, were heading somewhere. Everyone wanted to go some place and each of them had a story for why they were going there. And, even if I knew each of the stories for their travels, it would only give me a very brief snapshot into who they were as people.
The Gospels and Acts fascinate me. I love reading them. I am drawn to the stories of Jesus and his early followers. For a long time I thought of the Gospels as providing a full picture of Jesus. After all, these stories that have been preserved are really all we have about the man.
Sitting in that traffic it dawned on me, the Gospels represent only the smallest glimpse into who Jesus was. Tradition says that Jesus about 33 years old when he was crucified. That means he spent some 12,000 days on Earth. We know precious little about the first 30 years of his life. The Gospels focus on his "public ministry," that lasted about three years. And even then, they spill most of their ink on his last week alive.
This snapshot of Jesus we get in the Gospels leaves so much out!
We don't really get the complete picture of the everyday Jesus.
Even if we want to constrain ourselves to the public ministry that is mostly covered in the four Gospels, it's a thumbnail.
We don't get the everyday moments.
What was Jesus like when he woke up first thing in the morning? How did he respond when one of the disciples was late to get on the road? Were there foods he didn't particularly like? What was his favorite vintage of wine? Did he get blisters?
You get the idea.
We know bits and pieces of the story. The Gospels give us a sense of who Jesus was, but we miss out on the everyday Jesus.
So, what's left? I'd argue what's left is our imaginations. We can take what we know about Jesus from the stories we have and the stories of his earliest followers and imagine what he would have been like in the in between times.
Perhaps you're asking, "Why would we want to do that?"
As I think about my life, I'm realizing that it's not really the big moments that have to come to define who I am. It's the small moments. It's the moment where I realize that, "I'm the traffic."
In all truth, our lives are not made up of grand events. They are filled with moments. Each moment builds on itself. A small decision here and little choice there. When these small moments come together they are the building blocks for who we are. If we really want to know ourselves, we need to look at the small moments that we find ourselves in.
Because of this, I'm trying to imagine what Jesus would have been like in the small moments of life. The in between times that were not considered worthy to write down. What we have in the Gospels is the big picture of who the man was. To me, Jesus is the most compelling person that has ever existed. His sacrificial love, his perseverance, his strength, his wisdom, his wit, and so much more, draw me in. I am so thankful for what we have in these stories.
Now, I want to work my way backward, so to speak, and free my imagination about the everyday Jesus. I am beginning to believe that it is here in the "everyday Jesus" that we can find the Jesus of the incarnation, or as another author put it, the Jesus of solidarity. I think this is the Jesus that really does meet us in the junk and the messiness of life. But, to find him we have to delve into a bit of the mystery and let ourselves engage our holy imaginations.
What do you think Jesus was like in those small moments, the everyday moments? Do you ever think about the "everyday Jesus"?