Deprivation. The very sound of the syllables conveys the emptiness contained within them. As we say in the business, all babies come into the world looking for someone looking for them. But not every child—nor certainly every part of us, especially those slivers that feel uncertain, broken, ashamed—is found by that searching pair of eyes. We can grow up in homes in which the food finds the table, the clothes find the drawers, the money finds the college funds, and the family even finds the church each Sunday; but somehow our souls remain undiscovered, hidden in the shadows of our caregivers’ well-intentioned mindlessness. Our deepest longings—to feel felt, to be known and loved in joy—eventually, when dispossessed of a trustworthy relational connection, resort to clutching virtually anything that will distract us from the pain of such barrenness. In the end, when we’re dying of thirst, we’ll drink anything—even gasoline—as long as it’s cold and it’s wet.
And then Jesus. That whole Immanuel thing. The best embodied version of God we have, coming, as Bruce Cockburn says, like a chainsaw in a velvet glove to my mind that has so many parts hidden in darkness. Parts that have suffered a deprivation of which they are not even conscious. Parts whose presence are unmasked in my hoarding, my impulsivity, my irritability; in my worry that my work won’t be enough, my marriage won’t be enough, my children won’t be enough, even my faith won’t be enough to make up for this deep, unquenchable longing to be loved.
And then Jesus. The One who says, “Hey you! Yeah, I’m talking to you—the one standing by the gasoline pump. The one so thirsty and hungry to be known, to be loved, to feel felt. The one with parts that have been so…deprived. I have more water to drink and bread to eat than you can imagine. All it will cost you is…your life” All it will cost is my life of clutching, hoarding, impulsivity, irritability… And then it hits me. Jesus wants to deprive me of my deprivation, wants to divest me of those things that are killing me. Things that have left my mind disintegrated and desperate.
This week, I invite you to imagine those parts of your mind that have felt robbed of life. And then, imagine what it feels like for Jesus’ gaze to meet you in that place, in those sensations, images, feelings, or thoughts that represent deprivation. Give it time. Give it practice. And watch the deprivation of your deprivation.