I met Jesus once. Well actually, just his shoes and his legs up to about the knee. But it was Him. He didn’t need me to see the whole of him for me to know.
It was 1992 and I was 11 but I remember the day as though it was yesterday.
I was sitting on the toilet when he appeared. We never closed the toilet door in our childhood home because it had no window, so Jesus was able to stand in the doorway while I did a nervous wee.
Nervous because I was going horse riding with my mum and I was excited and afraid.
I’d been sitting on the loo staring at the floor. I liked to find pictures in the pattern of the brown linoleum. A man with a big nose, a dog with floppy ears.
And then in the doorway were the legs. Hairy brown legs in old Dunlop Volleys, no socks.
I’m not sure how I knew it was Jesus but straight away I knew.
“Don’t be afraid,” he said. “I’m coming with you,”
This was way back before Dunlop Volleys were cool. He didn’t waste money on Reebok Pumps because he wasn’t materialistic. He didn’t need long pants because God Incarnate isn’t allergic to horse hair.
Don’t be afraid. I’m coming with you.
I blinked and the legs were gone.
“Mum,” I called. “I’ve just seen Jesus. He is coming with us!”
I found her and told her about the shoes and the hairy legs. She was teary because she knew what it meant when God showed up like that.
I don’t remember the horse ride. I suppose it went fine. But the memory of Jesus never left me. Nor did the feeling that He was always there.
In his book, ‘In The Shelter’, Padraig O’Tuama speaks about the time his own mother met and spoke with Mary, the mother of Jesus, who sat on the side of her bed when she was ill.
Oh, was it true? O’Tuama asks.
Is it a good question to ask whether something happened or not? Is information-recovery enough to mine this story for meaning? Is it true that the Blessed Virgin Mary visited my mother? Or is it true that it helped? If it’s true that it helped, does it finally matter how it happened?
Is it true that Jesus (and not even the whole of Jesus) met me in the toilet? As O’Tuama suggests, I don’t suppose it matters. What is true is that it helped; not long after that my mother had to go away and I did not see her again for a very long time.
I think that was the real reason He came.