Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Baby Jesus Story

This is something I did - something that happened to me - several years ago, before I had a blog to spread it around with. It was the first of January, 2003.

Even at the time, I had to admit it was pretty hard leaving Baby Jesus in the dumpster.

It was my day off, of course, but I had made an arrangement to stop by the church where I work and unlock the doors for a recovery group, so that they could have their weekly meeting. (I thought that, if you were working hard not to get high anymore, New Years Eve and New Years Day could be pretty trying. So giving them a place to meet seemed little enough.)

Some friends of ours have a New Years open house every year, and Eric and I had been there for most of that afternoon. When we drove up to the church, of course the porch was swarming with the formerly chemically-dependant; when I walked up, the crowd parted.

On the cold porch, between the glass doors, was a fiberglass baby Jesus from an outdoor nativity. Someone had tattooed him with permanant marker - kind of a skeletal "KISS" look on one cheek, a pentagram on his forehead, a fairly nice tribal design on one leg, and anarchy A on his back. A random 666 - on the back of his arm, if I recall correctly.

The recovery people were just scandalized, deeply offended; I was not, particularly. It did seem a little creepy, but mostly just annoying.

(Or funny. I was a little embarrassed to let on, in front of the angry recovery people, but to me it seemed creative and kind of witty. I have a fairly high threshold for sacrelidge, suspecting, as I do, that God's big enough to handle a little grafitti.) I said that I felt bad for the church that the culprits had robbed - we just had a stray defaced Jesus, after all, but some church nearby had a manger with no baby, no focal point.

It was obvious to me that the best thing to do with Baby Jesus was dispose of him. I told the outraged people that, if they wanted, they could pray for the person who did this (since it's clear to me that this kind of creative energy and attention to detail could be put to better use.) I grabbed the Newborn King by the hard hand and swung around to face the dumpster.

He was pretty big - about the size of a 2-year-old, I would guess - and, marking pen aside, quite pristine, not chipped or cracked. It had clearly been Jesus' first Christmas. He was heavy, too; with his arms stretched up, just the way you'd picture, the easiest ways to carry him were on my hip, like a football, or hugged to my chest, like a baby. I cuddled him across the parking lot and laid him - not too carelessly, but not too carefully - in the empty dumpster.

We talked about it on the way back to the party. It seemed like such an evocative image - not symbolic or metaphorical, since it was hard to nail down exactly what the image would mean. I was glad Eric was with me - driving back though the foggy rain, alone with that image, might have been a little creepy.

I felt something different, though. Instead of creepy, I started feeling something harder to shrug off. I started to feel...tender.

Back at the party, I had a few party conversations, which all ended up being about the Baby. ("You just left it there? Really?") I had to admit to my mixed feelings, to feeling a little weird attachment to the fiberglass kid; I also realized that our maintenance man would find it there, and I thought the experience would be pretty upsetting for him.
I ended up telling the story to a roomful of people, and, after a couple more glasses of wine, my sister and I hatched the rescue mission plan.

By the time we got back to church - still Jan 1, but just barely - it was just drizzling, and the very biggest puddles had begun to drain away. We'd been singing in the car - worship music, an unusual choice for me and my sister - and we were singing
when I climbed into the dumpster.

Eric flipped open the top of the dumpster and took a picture of the babe, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in about 4 inches of freezing water. You'd be reaching up with both hands too. I hit my head climbing out with him.

Jesus was consigned to the trunk; my sister was deeply disturbed by his decorations. We tried a few different things to clean him, settling on nail polish remover and paper towels. I had dispaired of getting anything off him; C just wiped the 666 off his arm with a cotton ball, saying over and over "Look at that. Look at that. Look at that." We took on the blasphemous stuff first, and worked until we ran out of solvent. I was a little too enthusiastic, and wiped through the paint on his forehead, through the black marker and the peach paint to gray, as if his skull was showing. "That's right where his third eye chakkra would be," said my sister.

We wrapped him up in some mufflers and put on a Santa hat, and set him on the kitchen table. I wrote in my journal that I slept beautifully that night, and had every night since, with Baby Jesus in the kitchen. We decided to leave the knotwork tattoo on his leg and the Anarchy symbol on his ribs. I also wrote that I had no idea what we would do with him - perhaps advertise so that he could be reunited with his (fiberglass, Holy) family. "But I do feel attached to him", I wrote that March.

When I told Brian this story, he marveled. "You saved Jesus!"
I had shrugged. "Seems fair."

1 comment:

Dawn said...

Really cool story, Betsy!