The Jesus in JMO
Exactly one year ago, I lost a very special friend. I wrote this blog then, and mean it just as much today. Perhaps no friend has ever loved me better than he. In honor of his death, may you spend today loving as he loved.
The image of Saints and Virgins has appeared in many-a-potato chip. But no image is more oft declared, than that of Jesus Himself. Not limited to grease stains, Jesus has materialized throughout the world and in various mediums. Europe caught him in a slab of bacon, a union wall, and Marmite (whatever that is). Canada (of course) discovered Jesus in a fish stick, Australia found Him in a lava lamp, and Mexico unveiled Him in a burrito (oh the clichés). Seen on Mars and in a meteorite, Jesus has emerged from Outer space to the southern United States. He showed up twice in Texas; once in a cheese doodle and once in the bat smudge on a baseball. And, in a strange twist of good fortune, somewhere in Americas is a Terrier with Jesus burned into his rear end.
Jesus has never surfaced in the cream of my coffee, but I saw him once in the face of a friend.
Though we grew up in the same town, I didn’t meet Jason until our lives intersected at a small Bible College in the desert hills of Southern California. We met mostly because I had a wicked case of strep throat, and he had a car. He drove me to the doctor, and bought me a latte. That was all it took. That first ride in his oil burning, third gear hating, red sports car led to years of rides . . . tied up in memories . . .
. . . Like the time we almost got kicked out of school for sneaking on to a golf course. We got caught because Jason parked his car in the course parking lot. With his Bible College parking pass clearly displayed in the window. Permit number and all. Jason was never very good at breaking the rules, but he always made breaking the rules worth while. If we weren’t going to make it back to campus by curfew, then Jason would find a beach to watch the sun rise or a Denny’s in which to whittle away the wee hours of the morning. He even mastered where to park his car so that we could sneak out of class and escape to Starbucks for a latte without being caught. Just for the days when I needed a latte . . .
. . . Like the time we picked up a stranger broken down at a gas station and drove him 90 minutes to his apartment in San Diego, only to discover the guy had issues way beyond what we were prepared to handle. Jason never even flinched. He just drove the man home. He allowed the stranger to tell his secrets, passed no judgment, gave the man all the money in his wallet, and prayed for him before we headed back to school. Jason always accepted who you were, and gave you everything he had so that you could be even better . . .
. . . Like the time He and another friend, Chloë, pulled me out of a sulk and drove me North to Six Flags. To this day I’m pretty sure neither one of them really wanted to go, but they knew I’d never been. I still remember looking at Jason as we waited in line for a ride. He so often found contentment in bringing others joy . . .
. . . . Like when he replaced the red coupé with a Kermit-the-Frog-Green sedan. Our first adventure in Kermie was the drive from Oregon back to Cali. I spent most of the 15 hour trip belting out “it’s not easy being green.” He not only tolerated my singing at his expense, but also threw in a couple of his famous dance moves. And when we hit eight lanes of LA traffic, during rush hour, with me behind the wheel? He sang for me, to keep me calm. He always had a way of singing me off the ledge . . .
Jason Lee Morris taught me the true meaning of Proverbs 17:17 — “A friend loves at all times.” He embodied the friend I have in Jesus; the friend who breaks all the rules and takes all the blame while I reap the benefit. He brought to life the Christ who sticks closer than a brother; the friend who passes no judgment but gives all of Himself so that I can live to my fullest potential. Jason personified the Savior who wept when His friend Lazarus died; the Man who fills me with His joy and beckons me in from the ledge with His compassion.
I saw Jason for the last time in late July of last year. We sat together at a Starbucks filling the space left by time with the bonds of friendship. In his usual giddy manner, Jason couldn’t wait to tell me he finally had a nickname: “Jmo.” He couldn’t wait to use it for his blog . . . the blog he was planning to write as he rode a bike across the States.
Two days after we sat for Coffee, Jason embarked on his journey. He never made it back. On October 6, 2010, somewhere in Iowa, a semi blew a tire and Jason’s bike was no match for the truck.
I was remembering today his excitement that warm summer afternoon, as he talked about his new nick name; when I realized that it was Jason who first called me Liv. To this day, my email address and log-in name is always Liv. He is a part of me, a piece of who I am. I cannot pick up where he left off in terms of that road in Iowa, but I can continue his journey by loving the way he loved. By showing to others the Jesus that Jason revealed to me.
The Jesus in Jmo.