A small Jesus episode

Tonight I returned to my old house church, on Hampton Road near the UT campus. It’s a fantastic mix of college students and working 20-somethings, many of whom live in the house itself, plus a lot of random irregulars that are drawn in by the warmth and intimacy of this weekly gathering. These people cram together in a tiny room on the second floor, sing far too loud for such a small space, talk about great things or hard things that have hit their lives, pray for each other, laugh a lot, and praise their Jesus. It’s a beautiful little place.

I came into this particular evening in a brooding sort of mood. There’s a lot of change at work in my life, much that is presently destabilizing, for the moment. My writing this month, in particular, has ended up affecting me more than I have felt in control of it. My head is whirling with new ideas these days. And it is … disorienting.

As a result of all this instability and transition, I have armored up in the last few weeks. I’ve grown a bit colder. Spoken more sharply with my roommates. Felt more distant. More tense. I came into this night of house church … kind of hoping that I could find a way to cry. To unwind this spring. Or somehow to meet God there, and be refreshed.

Some friends prayed for me. We laughed. Some shared stories. I banged on my awesome drum. We worshiped at the tops of our lungs for an hour. And then to end the night, we dissolved into an organic mess of small conversations and scattered laughter.

At that point, I sat with my friend Anna, who was getting to know another girl, a newcomer. This girl’s name was Iris, and she was from Austria, here on a study-abroad program of some kind. Anna met Iris earlier in the day at a city park, and struck a chord of friendship with her almost immediately. She subsequently invited Iris to come to house church that night. So, here she was.

Iris had spent the whole night silently riveted by the spectacle of our little gathering. Sometime during the evening, I had a thought that she appeared nimble to me — not necessarily that she was an athlete, but that something in her heart was agile, light-footed, and expressive. I can’t explain the idea really. It was incoherent, but definitive.

So I shared it with her. I told her I thought she was nimble. I had to offer some synonyms, and a pantomime with my hands, in order to explain the word. But as Iris began to get it, her face began to light up. Finally, I said “So … how do you feel about dancing?”

And then she sputtered … “I love it!!!”

It turns out … Iris’s full-time quest right now is the creation of some kind of new art form that merges physical dance with mixed-medium art. She is a brilliant dancer, and a visionary artist. I didn’t get a detailed explanation tonight of how exactly her dream is supposed to work. We were all too busy marveling at the connection that had just happened in the supernatural.

Iris laughed and smiled a lot. She told us she thought it was impossible to ignore the energy and passion that was evident in our little group. She had never known anything of a Christianity that looked like this. To my knowledge she was your standard postmodern agnostic … and yet something drew her irrevocably to Anna this afternoon. Something held her attention fast, throughout this whole evening.

It was the Spirit. He was leading her somehow, with very light footfalls and deep inhalations … amidst a tangled world filled mostly with shallow breathing.


The skeptic in me wants to suggest that it was mere coincidence that I had an intuition about Iris’s dancing. It was my own observation, or pure chance somehow. But my instincts suggest the opposite.

I came into tonight feeling ragged, disoriented, empty, and far from being able to offer anything to anyone. I hoped to cry, or be released of my malaise, or just to somehow see this Jesus move, up close again. I wanted to remember how He looks and feels.

He seemed to have chosen the lattermost option. There was no crying, there was no cathartic release. But He did indeed show himself. He was already working throughout today to draw Iris into this small room, tucked away on a random street in central Austin, drawing her to Himself. And He was pulling together a tiny blip of extra-awareness in my mind, the slightest bit of a trending impression, growing with perfect timing amidst my neurons and synapses. He implanted an idea just barely strong enough to move me toward speaking this tiny word to Iris — nimble; dancer.

And there at the end of the trail of these tiny steps of the Spirit, there was a gasp and a shudder and an amazed smile, which spread across all of our faces in tandem, and concluded with our joy and laughter, and thanksgiving.

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