I was reading Jefferson Bethke’s Jesus > Religion. His aim is to bring you closer to Jesus. What this book did for me, was something entirely different. Here’s what I learned about my relationship with Jesus:
1) I don't know Jesus. Not all aspects of him. I only know parts of him. I’ve only concentrated on parts of him. First it was The Strict God..then it was The Loving Daddy. Somehow, I know this isn’t where my relationship ends.
2) Apparently it’s a game. While reading this book- 10 pages into it or so, Arya (my pup) was being ornery bringing me his toy wanting me to play fetch, but didn’t want to let go. We’d end up playing tug of war, after which I’d get frustrated and stop. I realized this is what I did with my heart and God. I want him to take it and renew it, yet I refused to let go of it. I wanted to play this stupid game, much like Arya, not realizing if I just let go, there’d be SO much more fun to be had. But instead of getting frustrated, God is a gentleman and so he lets go and waits for me to invite/bait him once more to fix my heart (only to not let go again.)
3) I don’t love Jesus . What is it to love Jesus? So while I was in church last Sunday, we were being challenged to love one another and to love God. Being a good Christian, I was fervently praying and telling Papa that I love love love him and I want to be good and I will love him even more. I promised him that “For 33 years, you lived and walked and breathed on planet Earth. I am 33. I am done living life for me. I want to live the rest of my life for you.” This was quickly shut down by Papa. Now, my relationship with Papa so far has been one of Daddy/babychild: Loving, cuddling, smiling, frolicking, full of amazing grace and abundant in unconditional love. So, naturally I was taken aback in shock. “What? Why?” Papa replied “You don’t love me. To love me, you must accept me. You must know me. When you love me, temptation is nothing – not because of rules or laws—but because you love me. This is how you are wired. I know because I designed you. But most of all, to love me, you must love ... yourself. Because you are my DNA. You are my child. You are my creation. How can you love me if you can’t even love what I have created?” We both knew he had nailed it. I didn’t love me yet. Hence the self sabotaging behavior of putting myself in places of temptation- and then giving in. I said “I will work on that Papa. I will love myself and others more.” “ Oh, you love others just fine. I need you to work on loving yourself.” He was going to make sure the message was heard. So in a way, I am still giving up the old S. I lived for 33 years like S would. Most of it, I wish I could take back. But now, I live for Papa. And the season I am in, is learning to love S. (This is gonna take years of training.)
4) I wouldn't do much for Him. What would you do for Jesus? Give up worldly materials? Give up that porn addiction? What about judgments against others? Greed? Gluttony? Would you die for Jesus? I realized it was the “right thing” for a good Christian to say “Oh yes, I would give it up!” and I did that too. Heck I can’t deny it because I wrote about it in my journal to Papa. It’s right there in black and white. But my actions prove differently. Bethke talks about being a Christian in America versus Middle East. Saying you love Jesus is very different. If militants barged into my house and had a gun shoved to the side of my cheek and asked.. would I say “I LOVE JESUS CHRIST!” Would I be able to look my executioner straight in the face and feel at peace? Would I panic? Would I try to hide? Or would I become Peter and totally deny Jesus three times before the rooster crows ? It makes you think- even if you can’t admit it aloud- but if you really sat and thought about it and were honest with yourself and Papa (Well, he already knows the answer.. it is more about being honest with yourself)- Would I die for Jesus? So… do you love Jesus? What, exactly are you willing to give up for Jesus? It made me sit and think- “Apparently not very much because I can’t even say no to temptation.” Once I said that to myself in shame and felt about this little, I heard “Good, now that you’re transparent, lets work from here.” *Pause* Papa still loves me even though I admitted “Yeah, you took a whipping, insults and injuries and beating and slashing and had your side pierced while you laid your life down on the Cross to ransom me… buuuuuttt I think I’ll give into that food addiction in a few days once all of this has passed.” I know I didn’t quite say it like that, but God knows and I know that I am a sinner and while my heart is positioned towards God AND I WANT TO DO RIGHT, I falter and stumble and I’m totally not gracious in doing so. But He, is. His grace lifts me up, dusts me off and he happily walks to the cross and dies, yet again, for my salvation.
5) I think the “bad things” are his vengeance for me stumbling. It is natural, no? We, well- most of us- are programmed with emotional blackmail. I’ve even done it. We say “if you love me.. you will….” Or “If you don’t do this… *insert bad thing* will happen to you.” It’s the worldly way of living. So naturally when something bad or even “not positive” happened, I automatically thought “Oh, I had a bad day at work..it probably happened because God wanted to teach me a lesson about *insert naughty thing done here*” Now, I know that’s not true of God, but after 33 years of learning one thing- it’s a bit hard to unlearn that. Or at least the chances of the thought creeping into your mind is much higher than to say “Nu uh!NO!!! WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG!!! Jesus already took that away on the Cross. He already suffered the punishment we were supposed to." So why is it so hard to accept it? I had a shift in perspective (AHA! Moments tend to come very often when I hang with Papa these days) Tough times aren’t a chance to see if God loves us—but a chance to see if we love God despite the tough times. We are already loved by God. It is done He said. Your “karma” has already been avenged. “It is finished” He said. Our job now is just to love. And being that others’ “karma” also has been spoken for, our job is also to forgive.
6) I insult God on a daily basis. On page 49, Bethke asks “What would it look like if we treated our spouses or friends the way we treat God?” Meaning, what if you told your spouse “I told you l love you on Sunday… so now for the rest of the week, I can be promiscuous and run the streets. I mean, I already told you I love you so I’m good until next Sunday.” We know it wouldn’t work out well for us. Papa then stopped me in my tracks. “Before you think about how you treat ME... I need you to realize, that when you love me, you have to by default love my creation. You admit you’re my DNA, you are my creation and hence you are a part of Me. So I ask you: In extension, how do you treat my creation? What if you treated your family and friends the way you treat yourself? How about if you treated Arya the way you treat yourself?” OUCH. If you know me, my puppy is my baby. I will go without with absolutely no issues, if it means it will bring my Arya a minute of comfort. But myself… between the self sabotaging behavior, self destructive thought processes and self loathing mindset, If I treated anyone the way I treated myself- they would think I’m scum of earth. Not that I go around whipping myself physically, nor am I a martyr by any means. But I am known to not care for myself in that in intimate relationships I don’t necessarily feel the need to put myself first very often. “The sin, here,” He says “ is you destroying, insulting and ridiculing my creation.” OUCH AGAIN.
7) I don’t know that doing for others is good But Loving Jesus is great. It is so easy to get caught up in being a good Christian. You know- go to bible study, volunteer, be nice, don’t swear, don’t drink, love one another. But the essence of it all is lost in “doing” when the heart has to transform first. I am so so SO amazingly blessed to have a career that allows for tons of free time. So eventually I wanted to volunteer I wanted to do good, I wanted to be that good little Christian that earns her heaven brownie points-- when first, I need to Love Jesus. Because once you know His heart.. doing for others comes out of a place of thanksgiving. It comes out of a place of joy. Not obligation.
8) I’m off the hook and Jesus is on the hook. And sometimes I’m okay with that. I mean, He willingly chose to go on the Cross for me- so I should be fine with it, no? No! (That song “should’ve been me” comes to mind) On page 138 Bethke writes “He doesn’t just let you off the hook; he put Jesus on the hook for you.” I had to put my book down, close my eyes and take a second before I let that sink in. The heaviness of it- the weight of it finally comes down on me. When you see your flesh desires as directly linked to Him as His suffering; and it has been etched in your heart that as His love for you—knowing what you’ve done and will do— He still chooses to go to the Cross for you-- When you see your wrong doings as that crown of thorns or that lashing and you realize that you love Him so immensely that you want to do everything in your power to not cause any more harm—you will be able to say no to the world
easily and move on
from that temptation. It won’t be easy, but it will be done. It won’t be easy, but it will be done.
9) I desire gifts over The Giver, benefits over the essence. This was one of the hardest things for me to accept. It was hard to admit. But it’s the truth. I can hide but God already knows my heart, so I might as well come out and say it. So as my previous blog posts have suggested, my hearts latest desire was to get married. That didn’t go over so well. I had idols, I wanted, I desired and I loved and I loved hard. When it all came crumbling down, I didn’t know how to cope. I still to this day, have moments when I don’t know how to. My orphan spirit reared it’s ugly head and I started comparing. I looked at others who were married and asked God “Why not me? Why did you bless them with this and not me?” I started to strive- if I just make friends with people that have happy marriages, they would know other happy people and hook me up. If I don’t give into desires of the flesh and give into the spirit, God will get me closer to my future husband. If I am good then God will… If I..If I..If I. I soooo wanted to be married that I lost sight of The Giver. The gifts of marriage are sacred. But The Giver is truth-The Giver is love-The Giver is life abundant. Part of me wanted to be married for the benefits of marriage rather than the essence of marriage. At one point I wondered if it even mattered WHOM I got married to… (Thankfully, the answer to that was a resounding YES!)
10) Jesus is just a guest in my house. I live like Jesus comes to visit me. With good intentions, I invite Jesus to come invade my house, my body and soul every day when I pray, worship, journal and listen to sermons. I get that he is a gentleman and he will not come unless invited… but Papa said He never left. He just took a step back and in turn invited me and waited for me to take a step in. And that’s just it- He’s not a guest! He is my creator. He is ever present. He loves me so much that he never leaves my side. So..why would I treat him like a guest?! In fact, as I was having this epiphany, Jesus tells me I am in a season of transition from daughter to bride. As the previous point says- it was my hearts desire to be married and scripture says to delight in him and you will receive your hearts desire! J So, how do you live with your husband? Does your husband come to visit and then leave after a couple hours? No. He comes home to stay. He doesn’t need to be invited, he knows that’s home. I still am a sinner, I still stumble and he still comes home. He desires me so much more than I’ve ever desired anyone else. When my last relationship didn’t work out, for weeks I would run to the window every time I heard a car door slam hoping it was my ex. I waited for what seemed like forever. Now, in my season of transition, I realize that Jesus waits for me in the window every day. And there are days that I choose to turn my back and walk away and sin. And when I come back I am broken, disheveled and a little dead inside. And like Hosea, Jesus picks me up from the slave market, brings me home and cleanses me. I am His Gomer and He is my faithful Hosea.
In conclusion, as a Jesus lover, Christ follower… I have to set high standards…real high standards; for myself, that is.
Somehow, I knew- this isn’t where my relationship ends. ;-)