Friday, January 6, 2012

Devotional 1-6-12

What a Blessing

1:9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 1:10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 1:11 And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."
I am struck by the image of Jesus being baptized by John in the river Jordan. As he comes out of the water he sees the “Spirit” descending like a dove on him. Then Jesus hears a voice coming from heaven. With my mental health background this is somewhat suspect. Was Jesus so stressed that he was delusional and having hallucinations?

During my three years of training in both the Georgia and South Carolina mental health systems, I met and talked with many individuals who believed that they had a special relationship with God. God had talked with them, and they had heard the voice of God. God had touched them and given them various instructions or messages for this world. Some believed they were God, some Jesus, and others that the Holy Spirit possessed their souls. This experience certainly gave me a different perspective than I had prior to my clinical training.

When one reads this passages it is natural to ask the question “Is it true?” or “Is it real?” This question always raises the anxiety of those who hear it. For some finding an answer is difficult. For others it is easy to use theological double talk, religious shaming or rigid indoctrination to quickly answer, “Yes!”

Even with my mental health background, I believe it as it is written. Here’s why: It happened to me.

It did not happen when I was baptized because I was baptized as an infant. I have no memory of the event. It did not happen when I joined the church at six years of age. I only remember my aunt who never showed affection hugging me as the church members filed by to congratulate us for what I did not at that time know. It did not happen when I was sixteen and decided to answer this mysterious thing referred to as “the call to ministry.” I was not even sure I wanted anyone to know about my career choice.

In fact I do not know at what age it happened or if it is a “true” event. That is the point. In our religious lives we are so locked into the need for certainty that we miss the truth of spiritual events. The world has to be created in seven days and Mary has to be a virgin. Many times we believe it has to be true or if not, it is false? Not true!!

Here is what happened to me: I saw God in his heaven. God spoke to me. As a scared, frightened, child who was abused by parents, teachers, siblings, school mates, I did not know if the world was safe or if I would survive. During Sunday school, Vacation Bible School or maybe in a dream I looked to the heavens and the heavens opened up. There sat God on his throne. God looked down at me with compassion in his eyes and caring in his voice and spoke. God said, “Son it is going to be ok. You are going to be ok. Don’t worry.” That’s it! The End.

Did it really happen? Was it real? Is it true?

To me it is, and that is all that really matters.

So it was with Jesus.

So it is with you.

What a blessing.
Rev. David C. Johnson
Rev. David C. Johnson DMin BCC is assistant director for operations in the Pastoral Care and Education department of Carolinas Medical Centers in Charlotte, NC. He serves as president of Association of Professional Chaplains and may be contacted at:,

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