Jesus of the Abyss

Posted: September 17, 2012 in Uncategorized
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Video by Scott Gray and Music by U2 (“Exit” –Joshua Tree)

     One day you’re on top of the world; the next you’re down in the depths.

That’s what happened to my husband for his 50th birthday.  After a surprise party last Saturday night, he suddenly found himself the next day on an airplane with me, his wife of both trial and triumph of nearly 30 years, headed towards Key Largo for a short, but well-deserved and much needed mini vacation courtesy of his brother who paid for our hotel and airfare and his boss who surprised him with two dive trips.   My husband was blown away by the kindness and tangible love shown to him that perhaps he doesn’t receive often enough.

When I took him to the dive center where he would meet his crew of fellow divers, I asked him where he thought he’d be diving.   He said he didn’t know; it was really up to the Captain.   Since I had already poured over the Key Largo guide book at our first stop, I told him I hoped he could go see the “Christ of the Abyss” statue—a famous bronze statue, just under nine feet tall, that was purposely erected in 1965 twenty five feet below the surface in John Pennekamp State Park.  It is one of only three identical under water statues.    One statue known as “Il Cristo Degli Abissi” is located off the Italian Riviera in Genoa, Italy and is separated only by the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean and a second copy stands underwater in the oceans of St. George’s in Granada.  Together, they make up a holy trinity of underwater salvation!

My husband said they would be doing one wreck dive (a deeper dive) and one shallow water dive, but seriously doubted he would see the “underwater Jesus” because rarely did dive boats go to it.  It is a bit hard to find, a bit obscure and off the “beaten path” in terms of diving, and perhaps to some divers not as exciting as exploring sunken ships, and colorful coral reefs.

When we met up later in the evening for supper, after he enjoyed not two, but four dives, he said, “Guess what?”  “What?” I replied.

“I saw Jesus underwater.”  If a landlubber unfamiliar with the dive destinations of the Florida Keys were to have overheard this, perhaps one would roll their eyes, and think to his or herself, “Sheesh, there goes another delusional holy roller from the south!”

But for me, well, I was impressed and beholden to even hear those words tumble out of my hubby’s mouth.  Without getting into personal details, let’s just say there have been some conversations across the decades in our home as to the value, validity, proof of existence, debate over theological and historical accuracy, and need for reliance upon this man of mystery, the savior of mankind, this Son of God–this essential relationship found in the faith of Christians, and my heart as well.

Together we watched his video from the underwater dive camera I gave him for his birthday.  I semi-gloated (a sad symptom of pride) at being spot-on in the gift giving department as I watched schools of glass minnows flutter by.  I saw fish of the brightest yellows and bluest blues, and various other colorful beauties like the deadly and abundant, and now frequently eaten Lion Fish.  I felt as if I was watching a reality version of Finding Nemo produced, directed, and filmed by my husband.

Then I saw Him!  Jesus!  That’s right, just below where the sun fades from view stood the barnacle and crustacean-crusted, sea-weed covered, and somewhat greenish-bronze Jesus.   This Jesus who is crusted over with sea life in much the same way our spiritual Jesus took on the sins of man.   Here he stands in the sea’s silent depths with arms outstretched up as if  reaching towards sunlight, towards life, towards the universe—offering himself to the life all around him, both mammal and fish.  Here lies a hidden treasure, a blessing buried in the deep I thought.

I was captivated.  How many times had I seen the white alabaster Jesus on the steeples of churches, or the crucified Jesus perched across gold, silver, or diamond studded crosses adorning the chests of believers, or even the various wood-carved versions of Jesus upon church alters?

Then it hit me!  I have always seen Jesus on land, or better said, in the air—in the land of the familiar.  But seeing Jesus underwater– this was new.  I watched mesmerized by this small patch of real estate in the earth’s seemingly infinite ocean!  It’s so full of life, and yet eerily silent.  Only the gurgling sounds of my husband’s dive regulator could be heard.

So many thoughts bubbled up in my head as I gazed upon this beautiful bronze gift of Jesus–4000 pounds of Italian artistry sculpted and placed so carefully in three different places on earth, yet he will be encountered and witnessed only by a small number of souls certified to dive the ocean’s depths.  Only the fewest of divers in this small slice of sea will ever be able to find him.

This tangible bronze Jesus of the sea is not easily found and is witnessed by few.  I wondered what the impact is on those who believe, and even those who don’t.   The idea for placing the first Italian underwater Jesus in the ocean was to honor the first Italian diver, Dario Gonzatti, who first used SCUBA gear.

For just a few moments, I wished I had been underwater at the moment the Christ of the Abyss came into view.  Did other divers grasp what seemed instantly obvious to me?

Jesus love for us knows no depth.

Jesus will be with us, no matter how low we sink.

To see Jesus in a new light, you have to dive deep.

    This Jesus of Key Largo was lowered into the ocean about the same time I drew my first breath in 1965.  We are almost the same age.  But Jesus, son of God, and the foundation of the Christian faith, has been around a little while longer, and thankfully can be accessed by more than just scuba divers.   No certification or travel to an exotic location is required to find this Jesus, only a sincere heart that earnestly seeks Him.

This Jesus is not found by us descending down to Him, but by simply reaching out and accepting him on faith.

Like the Key Largo divers who are lucky enough to find Jesus of the Abyss, we count ourselves blessed once we are convinced that a spiritual Jesus not only exists, but is already waiting in our deepest place of pain, despair, shame, or guilt.  Jesus knows that in our flawed state of humanity, most of us are going to get some “bottom time” in where the pressure weighs us down, where we are desperate to come up for air, and where the gravity of our situation surely feels as if we will drown here—alone, and without notice by those around us.

Yes, Jesus is already waiting for us in our moment of greatest triumph, deepest loss, or our worst pit of despair before it ever happens.   He’s with us when we reach the depth of our disgust with our self (acknowledged sin), or the arrogance, or even ignorance of our deception (unacknowledged sin).   When He seems to us so far away, in reality, He’s only a whisper or prayer away.

He’s there before our first tear ever slips from our eye, the first lie we ever utter, the first deception we ever conceive, the first act of evil we ever act upon.    We don’t have to dive deep to find him, but “going deep” into God’s word (the bible) is a great place to start to find answers to the great mysteries of life such as why do we live, why do we die and what happens after, and what do we do in between the two?

Ah yes, Jesus.  His very name can evoke division or it can evoke peace.  His very name can arouse suspicion or conjure up love.

It comes down to this.  Whatever people say about Jesus, this much is undisputed:  Jesus is a choice.  He is not a mandate.  That is our freedom.   For how could one ever mandate love?  You could force obedience to law, but never love.   Jesus is not an arranged marriage, but a free choice. 

I could quote a bunch of scripture and turn people off or find similar friends who nod their heads in agreement.  I could say Jesus is love, Jesus saves, or Jesus is the way, and I would be both condemned and praised for telling the truth or lying.   Within two sentences the focus falls off Jesus and becomes about the person speaking about Jesus.

I believe I cannot adequately express the magnificence of Jesus due to my limitations of vocabulary, time, space, and most of all flaws in my human character.  Nor can I adequately defend Jesus, so I am at peace knowing I don’t have to explain or defend what only God can do infinitely better than I could possibly attempt to do.

But I can love Him.  I can praise Him and seek to know Him more. I can share my thoughts, if someone is interested.  I can strive to be more like Him.   I could be like the fish of Key Largo who swim by Jesus every single day and never even comprehend how set apart they actually are compared to the other umpteen jillion fish who will never see this Jesus.

As I watched the end of my husband’s first dive video ever, I can say this with absolute certainty:  As a person who believes absolutely there is a purpose for each moment and encounter of our life, and that there is no such thing as coincidence, I know Jesus was waiting for him, as he waits for all of us:  in the depths.    He awaits a loving, life-changing relationship with us with open arms, an open mind, and open heart, already knowing and understanding all who we really are.

He awaits–radiating sunlight in the ocean’s depths, a fixed buoy and beacon for all who search for Him, providing stability, shelter, protection, peace, provision, rescue, light, and love for those who seek it.

May you find Jesus not only in heaven, and at the end of your life, but in real and tangible ways here and now for the duration of your life.  And if you happen to struggle, especially if you struggle, may you find courage to reach out to Him–he who already awaits for you with open arms, and may you have  faith to know that He is indeed real and good, especially in the depths of your abyss.

  1. Hi Liz..found your blog via your comment on Mockingbird. So glad to find it. Just a headsup: on the top of this post, you have a typo: the song in the video is not “Exit,” but “One Tree Hill.” Keep up the great work

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