"Wait! What?" I asked, a little startled. We were visiting patients in a Skilled Nursing Facility and I had taken him out of my bag and was showing him to a patient.
"Take a picture of me in his hands," he whispered again, insistently. "Go ahead. Get out that iPhone thing you love so much. I've got some things to say about that and a picture would be really helpful."
"But, I can't do that," I whispered back. "Not without permission. Somebody's permission."
Just then, a nurse came in the room. I found myself engaging him in conversation which came round to Flat Jesus. I mean, I was holding him in my hand and the nurse was curious. I asked if I could take a few pictures of a few patients holding Flat Jesus. Just their hands, I emphasized. I promised I would not reveal anything else about them.
Okay, so it wasn't exactly a miracle, but much to my surprise and delight, permission was granted from the Director and I began snapping away, showing each of them to the staff so they would be certain I was not reveling anything about the patient's identity.
"You know what?" I asked.
"No, what?" said Jesus.
"I'm always so deeply moved by the fact that, while so many of these people don't know where they are much less who they are anymore, they still recognize you."
"Really? What's so remarkable about that?"
"Well," I said, "they don't often recognize their spouses or children - or, if they do, they can't remember their names or who they are, exactly - but they recognize you. Well, not you, exactly, because you have looked so different to so many people around the world, depending on the era and the culture. Still," I continued, "there's something about Flat Jesus that is so recognizable."
"Know what I think?" Flat Jesus mused. "I think I'm a sort of modern icon. The basics are there - the long hair, the beard, the sandals, the message of peace. Everything everyone has been carefully taught about what I looked like, even though there's no picture or description of me in the Bible. The rest is either intuitive or a memory from a long ago childhood in Church School."
"Ah, yes," I said, "Which is why they also remember the hymns which tell the 'old, old story of Jesus and his love', right? They not only know the tune, they remember the words."
"Exactly!" Flat Jesus said as he smiled broadly. He's got such a great smile!
"Did you see how they sang along to 'He's got the whole world in his hands'?" he asked. "I gotta say, I do love that song." I thought I detected a slight blush on his cheeks.
"I should also say that I'm pretty tired of that Little Drummer Boy song. Pa-rump-pa-pum bleech!"
I had to agree with him. It's my least favorite thing about his birthday celebration.
"But, here's the thing," he said, "It's not just that I got the whole world in my hands. What's equally important for more people know is that they have ME in their hands."
"See?", he asked excitedly (I love to see Flat Jesus get excited), "It's about doing this together - God, me, the Spirit and all of God's people. Together, we've got the whole world in OUR hands."
"That's why I asked you to take these pictures," he said, passionately. "Yes, it's comforting to think that God is holding you, right in the very palm of Her hand. And, so am I. And, so is Spirit. Hospice patients need to know that but so does everyone."
"Of course," I said. "I mean, that's one of the reasons I do this work."
Flat Jesus giggled (I love it when Flat Jesus giggles), threw his hands up in the air (he does that a lot) and said, "Here I am, preaching to the choir. Or, as some of you like to say when people ask for prayers about the weather, you're 'in sales, not management'."
He's so funny, that one.
"Will do," I said.
"And, tell them Flat Jesus told you to add that verse," he said. "Wait, never mind. Better not," he added. "You know, I do some of my best work anonymously. I prefer to work by inspiration rather than identification. Some of your leaders could learn that lesson."
"Right," I said, "Humility is always more persuasive than arrogance."
"Absolutely," he beamed. "It has ever been thus."
It's pretty amazing what you can learn when you hold Flat Jesus in your hand.